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Main liberty post

Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Liberty in Prison – Digital Mix

 

Spoiler: there is nothing in this post that is business, FinTech, Blockchain or AI related.

General

It has been a quiet couple of weeks since my previous update of Jan 2018. I am getting used to the post-employee rhythm of the day: art, garden, chickens, biking. My day schedule is getting close to “the perfect day” as described in Freed From Desire.

The Artschool project

Most of my artwork is related to the Hot Dogs Tonight (HDT) project. If you want an intro on HDT, check out my previous post.

As the HDT is at times so geometrical and becoming a real obsession – and to assure you and myself that I am not completely flipping – I sometimes alternate with more organic work like this:

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Messin’ – Acryl on canvas – 120x100cm

But back to HDT: Marie-Ange, one of my teachers at academy, introduced me to PVL, who had been experimenting a lot with painting on canvasses that themselves where prints on canvas.

When he heard about one of the sub-projects of HDT, he suggested me to go fully digital and print on canvas instead of painting on printed canvas. He sounded like a perfectionist: nothing below 750 dpi, always use high quality print shops, only use Adobe Photoshop, etc

So I “perfected” the prison window to this reference shape (all formats, colours, line weights, etc are now documented for different sizes…)

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Reference Prison Window – Digital Mix

I also tried a bigger painting (120x100cm), with 720 little prison windows. The yellow went fine, but for some reason the purple paint started creeping under the mask tape, and I lost the precision of the preparatory work. I tried to hide the imperfections with carbon black acryl markers, but made it worse (although some disagree).

I should have tested these new markers a couple of times on test surfaces before applying it to the 720 HDT canvas. Also the canvas started undulating after applying and re-applying so much tape. Again, some good lessons learned in addition of having become some semi-expert in mask taping.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – 720 Windows – Acryl on canvas – 120x100cm

I also started to prefer the shape without the prison bars: hoping less is really becoming more. I experimented with different settings, formats, colours, with/without lines, taped lines, acryl marker lines, etc.

This time using very cheap 20x20cm canvasses from the local Action-store (discounter)

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Small windows – Acryl on canvas – 20x20cm

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – 20 experiments for essence – Acryl on Canvas – 20x20cm

People seem to be intrigued by the HDT work, and it can serve many different (post-fact confabulated) narratives. Some narratives that seem to tick/stick:

Golden Cage: the life of employees with all the perks and stocked fridges, but still living and operating as self imposed inmates, loosing all sense of agency, and keeping quiet and obeying whatever real or imaginary authority. I can imagine HDT full-size installations with different insides/outsides to let the visitor experience what they missed by staying inside the cage.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – NYC/SFO/LON/SYD – Prints on Canvas – 20x20cm

The whole theme of surveillance, sous-veillance and the prison guard’s option to open the window at will, or worse overlooking all the prisoners in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, so well put into the social media context in Andrew Keen’s Digital Vertigo. Keen has btw a new book out “How to fix the future”. The look from within the prison cell, seeing the sunshine outside. The look from outside, seeing the cheap light bulb inside.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Inside/Outside – Print on Canvas – 20x20cm

Trumpism: Americans seem to be frustrated with it. There seems to be a sort of complacency that leads to statements like “As long as it does not burn in my house”. Your own house has become a prison cell and/or refuge. “Liberty in Prison” seems to appeal to that, as well as the baseball hat referring to some other possibilities than America First. Same for all the shootings in schools, schools being experienced as danger zones: Schools behind bars.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Liberty/School behind bars – Digital Mixes

The HDT shape can also be seen as some sort of code, a symbol, an icon, a tag, a font, a sign-of-the-times. I have used it as part of the design of the world clock installation, or contrast experiences in Green/Red/Blue. For the world clock, I also have a more complex design with gyroscopes and smartphone holders, and a smartphone app to take pictures/selfies from behind the prison window.

Petervan Artwork © 2018 – World Clock - Installation 6 acryl canvasses – 20x20cm

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Green/Red/Blue – Acryl on Canvas – 50x50cm

The algorithms of the online print shops pointed me to cross-sell offerings for all sorts of merchandise. I have now received designs for T-shirts, baseball caps, notebooks, mugs, pencils, stickers, etc

I could not resist and ordered the black T-shirt, and it did arrive nicely in my mailbox two days after uploading my JPEG file to the print shop. The caps are not ordered yet. Still hesitating for white caps, or red caps to make the link with “Make America Great Again” and to find some alternative tagline. Could be something with “resist” or “released” or ???

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Merchandising – The T-shirt exists 😉

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Stencils/Templates/Etches/Monoprints

The HDT project unleashes many other ideas. Some folks refer to the Blue Dog Phenomenon by George Rodrigue or the OBEY memes of Shepard Fairey, who recently even started covering huge apartment blocks with his memes. I have no idea where HDT will lead me. It just happened to me. There is no plan. Let’s celebrate happenstance.

My academy teachers told me there are enough ideas now, and it’s time to “execute” and make some of the existing work “presentable”:

  • Most of my canvasses are stitched on wooden panels. After a while, especially with a lot of tape-work, they start undulating. I need to get some of them properly framed (or do it myself) so they look somewhat “neat”.
  • I have load of digital work and try-outs. My teachers say that that work is worth seeing as well. This could include printing some of my digital designs on high quality paper and presenting them in some kind of gift box that people can browse through

New tools

I completed my studio with the following new tools:

Co-creation: Prison-Window-as-a-platform

I am playing with the idea of making available the Prison Window in different formats (PSD, JPEG, etc) and inviting other creative folks to have a go with it and sharing their results with the community. I will probably do a separate post with invitations and assignments for that.

I will probably start simple with some Google-Doc folders, but wondering if any cloud platform already exists to do just that. Also interested on any models for licensing and compensation models for collaborating artists. You never know somebody wants to buy this stuff. Just ping me if you know of any platform or models that can serve my needs. I will be eternally grateful 😉

The Pigs & Chickens Project

Just a moniker for my garden project. And for this edition just some pictures will do.

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Petervan Industrial Constructions © 2018 – Self made vegetable box

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Petervan Chicken diversity/inclusion/#metoo 2018

Interesting quotes/random ideas/reflections

  • About Trump: “As long as it is not burning in my house” and “The destruction of complacency”
  • About time: “Future Memories”
  • About employees: “Self imposed inmates”

Social media disconnect

As in “the perfect day”, I am now almost completely disconnected. I have unsubscribed from almost all mailing lists. I am down to about 2 emails per day and of course an empty email box. My mobile can only take calls and text messages. 3G is disabled. I have stopped tweeting, FB-ing, etc. I put a blocker on my browser (https://blocksite.co/) on my laptop and mobile and it does what you’d expect it to do. I feel I have more agency with my time. I am enjoying the physical and emotional silence.

What’s next?

During Apr – June 2018, the plan is to work on:

  • Hot Dogs Tonight, with a focus on wooden 3D objects, and more rough and bigger scale projects
  • Pigs & Chickens Project
  • Studio Oxygen (see previous post)
  • Lots of biking (it’s spring and summer after all)
  • Whatever feels interesting (A.F.E.A.R.) and comes naturally into my flow: a couple of leads developed after my latest post, we’ll see how that goes.

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Petervan Artwork © 2018 – Green – Acryl on canvas – 50x50cm

That’s it for this edition. If there is something worth reporting, next update is for June 2018.

Warmest,

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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”:

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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.

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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.

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Deborah Kerr and Robert Taylor on the Quo Vadis filmset

Every year Jim Marous publishes the Top banking trends and predictions. On 21 Dec 2016, Jim published the sixth edition with predictions for 2017.

My input was a “pick-and-choose” list of bullet points. You can find the full list below. My input date was 27 Nov 2016. We are now two months later, and I captured some articles/announcements related to some these bullet points. And I added at the end some additional observations. All of this should be taken with more than a grain of salt, as I dimmed my focus on FinTech since starting my Petervan Productions sabbatical on 1 Nov 2016, and don’t read/research as much as before.

As always, these are 100% my personal opinions. Sometimes provocative, sometimes innocent, sometimes the cynical view of a 60 year old incumbent, but hopefully at times contrarian and inspiring. Here we go:

+++ start 27 Nov 2016 input

  • In general, 2017 will be the year of illusion, delusion, and distraction for and by FinTech.
  • Blockchain/DLT/etc will prove itself as one of the biggest distractions of this era in that it does not solve any existing problem, maybe it solves some future problems to be identified, but with a price to pay: the price of fundamental process re-engineering. Very few will be up to this task which involves community management and regulation.
  • In 2017, subject to pressures on the bottom-line and macro-political forces, banks will witness massive lay-offs and disinvestments in FinTech innovation labs and initiatives. These initiatives will be re-branded as research efforts, focused solely on incremental improvements in the core business lines.
  • FinTech will manifest itself as a techno fantasy, drawing attention away from the real problems to be tackled: cyber-security, trust and identity, which only can be solved through laser focused industry and government efforts. No single company can solve these on their own, and self-serving patenting will be counterproductive to industry-wide success.
  • In the US, the Trump administration will out-regulate innovation to protect the financial institutions fiefdoms and their control of money. But despite the Trumpian rhetoric and “opportunities” for financial institutions to start playing their old extraction-value games, financial institutions will be challenged by citizen uproar to give back to society.
  • Despite all these negative predictions, volume and frequency of FinTech investments will dramatically increase. Like in other industries, a 100M$ Fund will be considered as peanuts. Like in traffic jams, investments become bigger and last longer. Like traffic jams, ROI will be difficult to impossible to resolve.

+++ end 27 Nov 2016 input

What I am missing in many predictions is that most are just extrapolations of existing trends. They ignore the fact that the trend can just die or become a commodity where prices trend towards zero.

What I am missing is the creative/opportunity orientation (what do you want) vs. the reactive/responsive orientation (what problem are you trying to solve).

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 is getting disrupted. The underestimated and ignored exponential power in all of this is the “power of networks”. I have another post in preparation for that, but in the meantime I would invite you to get familiar with following books and thinkers:

  • The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks, by Joshua Cooper Ramo
  • Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future, by Joi Ito
  • The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, by Kevin Kelly
  • “I wasn’t expecting that” from Simon Wardley’s upcoming book
  • Cloud wars by Simone Brunozzi
  • The end of cloud by Peter Levine from Andreesen Horovitz
  • Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology, by Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay and Mickey McManus (already from 2012, but so advanced in its thinking)

Rebelliously yours,

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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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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.

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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).

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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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Douglas

Headshot - Douglas Rushkoff

The first time I heard the term “Platform Cooperativism” was when listening to a talk by Douglas Rushkoff (www.rushkoff.com) on 15 Nov 2015 at the Internet Society.

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Just a couple of weeks before, Doug had sent me a manuscript version of his new upcoming book “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth became the enemy of prosperity” (Amazon Associates link), planned for release in two weeks or so. I recall the working title of the book was “The end of growth”.

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As usual – when listening to an interesting talk – I scribble notes on my notepad, pausing the video after every interesting sentence, and end up with some sort of transcript, somewhat personalized because using my own sense-making lens and bias.

Some snapshots:

  • Before the law enforced monopoly, now technology enforces monopoly
  • From creative destruction to destructive destruction
  • A software company is a company extracting value from the working economy (transactions between people) and converts it into capital (static bags of shares and stock prices), converting land and labor into capital.
  • Creating real value, that’s the suckers’ place (of being gamed). Playing the game is the place where you want to be
  • Central currency is the embedded operating system
  • Should we optimize for growth or optimize for humans?
  • Jobs!, Jobs!, Jobs! Let’s pretend we are on acid for a minute ;-). Who really wants a “job”?
  • Most companies, after reaching max growth, go for steady state, the flow of money
  • Uber drivers are doing R&D for automatic cars. They don’t have a platform cooperative
  • Family businesses are focused on the long term, are generational, are even willing to help other create value.
  • From a growth model of business to a flow model of business
  • Optimize for the velocity of money (not for being static, stocked in troves)
  • We don’t need banks to authenticate
  • The bank was made to extract value out of our transactions
  • About Bitcoin/Blockchain (at minute 37): “what are they programming for?” Bitcoin creates trust? No, Bitcoin SUBSTITUTES trust
  • In the end, we have to re-program the social expectations of each other
  • There is some chance that the P2P economy may happen, that the extraction economy comes to its end, with interesting experiments
    • We see hybrid models to fund pizzeria, 50% Crowd, 50% bank
    • The bank as facilitator of local community development
  • From platform monopolies to platform cooperatives
  • Facilitating exchange of value between people instead of extracting value from people’s labor.
  • We need a full-blown renaissance, and we are in it…
    • From Perspective painting to the hologram and the fractal
    • From the individual hero to collectivism
    • From the printing press to the computer
    • From enclosing the commons to retrieving the commons
    • From divisional science to the science of whole-ism
  • Land, Labor, and Capital as PARTNERS in an economy
    • Today, capital is extracting from Land and Labor

The comments right after Douglas’ talk by Astra Taylor, author of the book: “The Peoples’ Platform: And Other Digital Dilusions” are interesting:

  • I want (platform) cooperatism to be confrontational, it has to make a difference in the world
  • How different is the current moment? If different at all….
  • The key for cooperatives success is access to capital

Platform Cooperativism is possibly an answer to Platform Capitalism. Harold Jarche recently articulated very well what platform capitalism is really about: the extraction of value from many for the benefit of a few.

“The emerging economy of platform capitalism includes companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. These giants combined do not employ as many people as General Motors did. But the money accrued by them is enormous and remains in a few hands.”

And just a couple of days ago, David Bollier had a great post pointing to a new report on Platform Cooperativism by Trebor Scholz, one of the organizers of the Nov 2015 conference where Rushkoff spoke. Full report (PDF) report here.

“In the report, Scholz notes that the gig economy financializes resources that were previously outside of the market.  Our cars, our apartments, our private time – all can now be monetized through corporate platforms and made subordinate to market forces.  In effect, this new system is “embedding extractive processes into social interactions” and “extending the deregulated free market into previously private areas of our lives,” writes Scholz.”

Platform Cooperativism is a choice we have in the Industrial-Human Paradox. The WEF makes a lot of noise about “The 4th Industrial Revolution”, semi celebrating forms platform capitalism like the Uberization of everything, and robots eating our jobs.

It feels to me that sort of thinking starts feeling more as entertainment rather than independent thinking and provocation.

As Douglas Rushkoff said and provoked elsewhere: we don’t need to fix the system. The system just works fine for what it was designed for: extracting value.

scharmer

Otto Scharmer articulated very well the symptoms of the broken system:

  • Ecological divide
  • Social divide
  • Spiritual divide

We don’t need to fix the existing system, we need another system. We need radical ideas for the new century: platform cooperatism could be the answer. But a lot needs to change.

Still inspired by Scharmer, we need to improve the quality of how we engage with each other, the way we debate, dialogue, coordinate, organize. We need to take into account the quality of the context. We need to go from experiments and prototypes to models that can scale and be transformative. And that needs to happen at an institutional level.

In his ULabs, Otto Scharmer has identified two missing conditions for this to happen:

  • Enabling infrastructures that bring together the right set of players into a system
  • Move from abstract coordination mechanisms (like hierarchy, markets or organized interest groups) to co-creating ecosystems

In the middle of the great transition from centralized to decentralized to fully distributed systems, we have a choice: we can copycat the models of platform capitalism leading almost by nature to a few monopolists who take it all, or we can choose for a construct that has in mind the flourishing of the whole, of the cooperative.

Somebody has to take up the role of the commons for financial services, where the end-goal is not to maximize profit and shareholders value, but the interest of the community and the maximalisation of flow between all the stakeholders.

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Way back in 2010, I wrote a post “Let me entertain you” inspired by one of Robbie Williams’ biggest hits. Some extract of the lyrics below:

Hell is gone and heaven’s here
There’s nothing left for you to fear
Shake your arse come over here
Now scream
I’m a burning effigy
Of everything I used to be
You’re my rock of empathy, my dear
So come on let me entertain you
Let me entertain you

Lyrics of "Let me entertain you" - Robbie Williams

I have evolved since then. The title of this post is inspired by a quote by Brian Eno in an interview in December 2015 with Steven Johnson about art, music, punch lines, and culture in general I would say.

 

“I don’t want to be entertained,

I want to be provoked.”

 

 

 

Here is the video on punch lines.

When I first read that interview, there was no transcript, so I transcribed it all myself (so I did not cut and paste from the site, and everything in this post is my own crunching through the story ;-). Now it’s all for grabs on Steven’s post.

I think Eno’s quote could be a great tagline for the way I think about “events”. I could do my Magritte trick here again and say “Ceci n’est pas un event”. As I have said so many times in the past:

“I am not in the events business. I am in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences”.

It’s about creating spaces and environments where people want to be provoked, not feeling comfortable, not being entertained. At the edge, but not beyond.

 

 

Exactly what architect Clive Wilkinson refers to in his talk “Designing The Theatre of Work”. There is indeed something (un)wise in this notion of “Theater of Work” or “Theatre of Change”. At min 11:30 of this video, he quotes:

“I don’t want people to feel comfortable, I want them to be provoked. I am not going to get great work out of people who are comfortable”

and also

“The architecture and the language of space is not something that is meant to make you go to sleep”

It’s only very recently that I realized the “creating high feedback loops and immersive learning thing” was only about the “how” and not about the “why” and “what” this is supposed to achieve.

I think I have a better hunch about that now: I believe it is about creating high quality change. Deep change. Not the Theatre of Change. Change that is in the first place based on high quality human alignment. Beyond the cognitive, and beyond the tactics of processes and governance. Beyond the illusion and entertainment of the innovation theatre.

I recently bumped into a colleague that is doing innovation work – or should I say theatre – for a big international automotive company. She was asked to give support in the design of a “disruption tour” that was organized for the members of the board in Silicon Valley.

I think we have all seen those disruption tours, where execs are flown into sunny California, get a week immersion, come back all excited as part of this elite club that got to see one or the other hotshot in the valley, and where the initial momentum ebbs away very quickly, usually already after two weeks, when we all go back to business as usual.

But the briefing for this tour was a bit different. She learned that the tour should not challenge any of the “what” and only focus on the “how”. So in other words: avoid in all circumstances that anything they will see and hear would challenge or disrupt their existing automotive strategy. What was asked for was “disruption without disrupting”. Or “Safe Innovation” as I read somewhere else this week.

In Hollywood this is called “entertainment”.

I kept delving in the Brian Eno’s story about entertainment vs. provocation, and found this audio ànd the transcript of the 27th Sep 2015 BBC John Peel Lectures with Brian Eno.

I am very much inspired by both Peel, who has this art of giving others “airplay” and Brian Eno, who really is a “curator d’excellence”, if you look back at what sort of magic mix of artists he brought together in his life, always remaining a “vanguard”, and his restless desire for discovering new places and more:

vanguard

“Vanguard” means forefront, advance guard, avant-garde. Has to do with seeing early signals, making sense of them. Not only seeing. Also building. Building something new. “World Building”.

World building, like the places children imagine. Like the emotional places where children imagine: who would not crave to be in that state all the time? In that sense, I believe my curation and events work is more and more about painting and architecting “states of mind”.

Happenstance that just this week @ribbonfarm had a fantastic post on this topic of “states of mind” titled “Productivity for precious snowflakes”

snowflakes

Two identical snowflakes, via NYT

He is talking about multi-finality (and not multi-tasking) and about the interest in the quality of the experience (and not the mere outcome), and about the source of creative being in the past.

It’s encouraging to realize that many of the states of mind we seek are not “out there” somewhere, to be hunted down and consumed. They are states of mind belonging to our past selves — we wouldn’t crave it if we had never experienced it. We have to go backwards and remember what we once knew, not forwards to some perfected version of ourselves. What would you pay to experience child-like wonder for a day? To watch Star Wars Episode IV for the first time again? To have the ability to snap your fingers at any time and see your writing, your painting, your app with the fresh eyes of a novice?

“Flexing our mental muscles” by imagining new worlds, and “when people synchronize themselves together”, says Eno.

He also introduces the topic of “exhaustion”. I will come back to the theme of exhaustion in another post, as I think it is key to the kind of problems we try to tackle today.

14th century

“We need ways to keep in synch, to keep coherent. That is what culture is doing for us.”

and

“Culture as a set of collective rituals to keep coherent, collective rituals that we are all engaged in”

book keeping together

Brian refers to the book “Keeping Together” by William Hardy. In that book, one of the most widely read and respected historians in America pursues the possibility that coordinated rhythmic movement – and the shared feelings it evokes – has been a powerful force in holding human groups together.

As an ex-DJ, I think my work is about creating rhythms. Architecting these “coordinated rhythmic movements and rituals” for “state of minds” and “states of intentions”.

Way beyond the entertainment. This is about “Creating scenius together”. Scenius is the talent of whole communities. Bringing them in contact with their talent, their potential.

“You simply can’t absorb this (change and exhaustion). You just have to do it collectively. Nobody’s going to be able to do it individually”.

These interviews with Brian Eno are from last year. Before Bowie sent us Lazarus and left us all alone on 10 Jan 2016.

 

 

My good friend Gary Thompson also leveraged Bowie’s death into an intimate and very inspiring blog post about “being provoked” and “being at a trailhead, at the start of a new year and being on a journey without a map”.

Tony Visconti, who produced several of Bowie’s albums, acclaimed Bowie’s visionary status.

“He always did what he wanted to do,” and “And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art.”

Bowie and Eno are not entertainment. They are provoking art. Work becomes art. The essence of work is art.

“Art is everything

that you don’t have to do”

Brian Eno

At a reception earlier this week, I bumped into a friend who follows my blogs, tweets, and artwork.

She basically asked me “Quo Vadis, Peter?” and “What direction are you going with all this?” It’s a great question I am struggling with on an almost daily basis.

I will answer cryptically with the title of Otto Sharmer’s latest book “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies”and with the last verse of Bowie’s Lazarus:

This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

Enjoy!

 

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