#MH370 – Are we believing our own hype?

As the painstaking search for MH370 continues and as families wait desperately for news – any news – of the fate of their loved ones, I can’t help but think we are in a dangerous mindset as a global community – that we are believing the hype of what we can and cannot do as a global civilisation.

Fact has merged with fiction – science fiction especially – and we now think that we have capabilities that will fix any and every thing.

What we believe we have is not what we have

Ongoing revelations of the capabilities of Intelligence agencies to spy on and store everything from everyone all the time add to the illusion that all information about everything is known or even knowable. It serves Big Brother well for us to think this – it curtails what we say and to whom. Fighting this is the core of the privacy movement.

From Hollywood we get the continual onslaught of militaristic salvation – any threat from anywhere will be defeated by our armies and our brave warriors – even if those are super heroes from comic books. We can carpet bomb, annihilate with nuclear devastation. We can even explore distant planets and keep in constant touch with our robotic vehicles on them.

Advances in medicine are offering promising defences against our micro-predators – we may soon even defeat aging. Technology is giving us exponentially faster, more ‘intelligence’ gadgets that give us more control on our architected environments and our man-made infrastructure.

All this unavoidably seeds the thought that, as a civilisation, are invincible – even if those capabilities are not actually universally available or applied. But nevertheless, there is a sense that when something truly tragic happens, we can harness our global capabilities to save lives and triumph in the adversity. But sadly, we can’t. The best we can do is pick up the pieces of disaster.

In reality – whilst we are not in the Dark Ages, we are still a small player in this big world. We are as nothing to the whims of weather. In the battle for planet Earth, she will always win, even if that means we become extinct. When we raise alarm about climate change, global warming and rising sea levels, it is not because we fear for the planet. We fear for ourselves and life as we know it.

Once upon a time, we knew our place in the system

Hundreds of years ago, when science was still in its infancy and knowledge was in the hands of relatively few people and the distribution network was basic at best, humans accepted – more easily- that tragedy happens and there is nothing we could do about it.

Ships would go out into the treacherous open oceans and may never return – the ocean bed is littered with unheard cries for rescue and salvation. As desperate as it sounds, humans had a more realistic understand of what they were capable of.

We knew our place within the system. Our place has not really changed – we have no more real responsibility than we ever had, we instead have increased our ability to meet the responsibility we have always had. Neither has the consequence of disrupting the balance of the our natural systems changed. Earth will whip our collective asses in the same ways – only the effects on us will be more devastating.

Be kind to the people who are doing their best

Against the backdrop of this misplaced belief that we can find anything are the people who are actually looking. They are discovering first hand that what they thought they had doesn’t really cut it. Hundreds of people using truely sophisticated technology – some so secret, we can only guess – are discovering that all this tech isn’t yielding any more than speculation.

The Malaysian government – as politically dysfunctional as any – are trying to do the best they can. But they are clueless – not because of a lack of competence – but because there really aren’t that many clues and even fewer promising ones. If everyone is grasping at straws, perhaps it is because there are only straws.

So let’s  be kinder to them and everyone involved in both addressing the tragedy and breaking the news to us that we are believing our own delusions of invincibility. Perhaps we would be better engaged in trying to understand what we think we can do versus what we actually can do.

Will we ever find MH370 – I don’t know, I sincerely hope we do.  Finding this plane – in whatever state it is in will ease the pain of not knowing for the desperate families of the passengers and crew.

Hope is what fuels us through adversity. We must be hopeful that we can be better and do better, but it mustn’t blind us to the false hope in capabilities we do not yet possess, because life and nature will call our bluff over and over again.

An ever full heart

My heart is always full.

Sometimes my heart is full of heaviness – pain, despair, anger, frustration and little isolated envies. Anger – at the disconnectedness between our hearts, between us and the pockets of truth it space and time. Frustration – at the time we are wasting on being disconnected and in pursuit of things that feed our delusions of ourselves.
When I feel this I want to be alone because I feel alone and I feel I want to be disconnected because we are disconnected. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want any part of the world I perceive anymore. And sometimes I am not.

Sometimes my heart is full of lightness and things that make me giggle. Things that elevate us above our other selves – and connect us to better,happier versions of who we are. It is full of unbelievable joy – that I can hardly contain. It feels like my heart will burst and an irrepressible light will burst forth into the world. And sometimes it does.
When I feel this way, I want to everyone to experience what I am experiencing, because if they did, it might change how the world seems to them forever.

My heart is always full and I endure or enjoy in full measure.

I often weep, sometimes inside, sometime openly. Whether heaviness or lightness, I weep. The only difference is what my tears contain and why they flow.

When my heart is full of lightness, my tears contain unbounded joy overflowing from my heart to the world – seeking to make channels through hard surfaces, working its way around the mistrust and resistance of the world to connect with all the beauty in the world so that it might become a wave that washes away the pain.

When my heart is full of heaviness, they contain despair that seeks to connect with the pain in the world, to form a pool in which we might bathe together but alone.

Even as I write this, my heart is full.

I have gay sex because it's legal and other stupid stories

What really pisses me off about humanity is how  – in the same stewing pot – we have some brilliant ideas that move us forward as a species and at the very same time we demonstrate such rank stupidity and brutality that really questions whether we have moved from the cave.

I used to feel quite philosophical about it – the world is huge, it takes different opinions blah blah – now I’m just pissed off.

Now, there are always exceptions to every rule and I am happy to be introduced to them but I have never met anyone who…

  • Smoked marijuana because it was legal – they do it because they get high and chilled and they like it.
  • Had sex with other consenting members of the same gender because it was legal – they do it because they love the person or that is the kind of sex that works for them or both. On the contrary – most of the gay people I know have had to struggle through huge opposition to their sexual orientation. Opposition that is mostly presented by people who have no business in the sexual or emotional affairs of others.
  • Wants to marry to someone of the same gender because the the law allows it – they desire this as an affirmation of their love. Pretty much for the same reasons heterosexual couples desire it.

As it happens I don’t have gay sex – but if I did , and so long as it was consensual with another adult – then the Law and the Protectors-of-Bullshit-Morality have as much business with it as they do with my having straight sex. None.

Don’t get me wrong – anything that is non-consensual and that causes emotional and/or physical injury should be illegal and prosecuted to the fullest extent. We already have semi-reasonable laws around minimum ages of responsibility. They are broad brush, but generally adequate. Let’s use that.

‘Back the hell out of my bed’

I am not agitating for a change in the law on consensual homosexual relationships and recognition by law. I am agitating for a change in how laws are crafted. I don’t believe there should be laws that go anywhere near my sexuality and gender of my beloved. If I am of age – I choose who I want to have sex with and/or marry, so long as they are of age too. Simple.

Any laws, anywhere that bring gender into the sexual or emotional choices of adults is unjust and discriminatory and should be entirely scrapped – not better worded or buffered with concessions – scrapped.

Nigeria , Russia and Uganda are united by their bigotry. But even though it pains me to say – I think the lawmakers of those countries are responding to the larger public opinion. Are most Nigerians, Russian and Ugandans  – by virtue of history and religion – deeply hostile to homosexuality. I think they are. And that is the elephant in the room. Unfortunately their governments do not see their role as creating the conditions for a more tolerant society to emerge. That would take courage and courage is in short supply in politicians. But if government lack the courage to help hack more tolerance, then what?

I fear – as in the colonial struggles for independence, the US civil rights movement and the other great struggles to lift societies out of stupidity – it remains for the small pockets of progressive thinking to slowly, painstakingly help their societies to a better place.

I hate #privacy.

 

Unless you’ve been in solitary confinement for the whole of 2013, you would know the big pink elephant in the news have been the ongoing revelations from the stash of intelligence data that Edward Snowden acquired during his work with the NSA. Working with Glenn Greenwald, Snowden revealed and continues to reveal the extent of global and mass data collection of data of private citizens in and outside of the United States.

Of course, the US government and its allies, their security agencies and supporters sing the same refrain – ‘we spy on you to keep you safe’. There is some logic to this, if not a lot of evidence of the ‘keep you safe’ bit.

In order to carry out it’s continuous espionage on the population of the world – really, the World! The NSA and in collusion with other national security agencies – GCHQ in the UK and others have bought and bullied access to the pipes that carry the raw data. Plugging into the heart of global telecommunications gave them unprecedented access to email, voice and other data. In the NSA’s own words – they wanted everything, all the time. In doing so, they have created huge distrust with the legal system and with the guardians of those pipes like BT, Google, Microsoft etc.

Greenwald and his associates – the Guardian newspaper group – chose a very shrewd strategy to drip feed the revelations to the public. The cynic in me would say it was to keep the story alive and sell papers, boost professional profile and ultimately sell more books. But actually I think the strategy was to keep the public persistently aroused to force the conversations that democratic societies need to have about the kind of relationship the State has with the population.

The world population is fickle. Our attention span is short and hugely contended for. Disasters, war, celebrity, entertainment, taxes, work, no-work, family and many other distractions these leave little head space to police the arms of governments that are struggling to remain relevant in an increasingly chaotic landscape.

I hate privacy

We are not private creatures and there is no such thing as privacy. There is just stuff that either no one is currently interested in or that we haven’t yet found a way to make public. Most things we moan about are really of no interest to anyone and we take slight to the mere possibility that they may be violated.

I hate privacy – at least in its current form.  It fuels embarrassment and paranoia, stifles real respect and human emotional development, and it delays us from having grown up conversations about how a progressive society should work. I hate it because it fuels the clandestine and gives reason to all kinds of nastiness that people do to exploit it.

The opposite of privacy is not everything about everyone all the time  – it is transparency. It is not glass houses and nudist beaches. It is openness and no barriers to a request to see what is going on.

I want to live in a world where I can find anything I want and do not have to feel I need to hide anything. The sheer volume of transparent content teaches restraint and discernment, encourages learning to understand what it means. I wager that it also teaches respect – if we are all naked and imperfect, we are much less likely to poke fun at the imperfections of others.

People most often hide things because they are afraid of the consequences of being discovered and in my near 40 years on this earth – those fears are hardly justified. I have seen this in both my personal life and in the things that I have observed. What might happen if we could do something about the fear – what might our world look like?

The enemy is not collecting data, the enemy is the misuse of data

What concerns me far more about the privacy debate is that we are debating privacy far more than the actions that the authorities take based on that data. I really don’t care that the US government has been listening to my calls or read my emails or can determine I tweet from my toilet. What I take objection to is that they might target a drone to blow me up whilst I’m on the toilet. Let’s debate that. My personal preference really would be that no one gets blown up.

The enemy are the extra judicial powers a President or prime minister has to order the assassination of anyone, anywhere- we are all innocent until proven guilty in a court. At least the last time I checked.

The enemy is going to war on false data, clandestinely obtained and then further protected by a veil of secrecy under the pretense of ‘national security’.

The enemy is the multi billion dollar security industry that thrives on secrecy and funds those who agree with its agenda of treating people like pawns and targets.

The enemy is the paranoid judiciary that chastises and sanctions people who , at great personal risk, shine the light of transparency on abuse.

The enemy is the callous media that muck rake the sensitive details of ordinary people in the name of ‘freedom of speech’ for the most puerile of entertainment and the most ignoble of aims – profit.

I don’t care what the eye sees nor what the ears hear, nor even what the brain thinks. I care what the hand does.

Protecting Privacy is hard, but promoting transparency is harder

If you think protecting privacy is hard, try being transparent. Transparency is very hard to do.
Just making everything you do open to even minimal scrutiny is hugely difficult, keeping it transparent is even harder. Transparency leads us to the conversation about responsibility. It takes us quickly through the blame game and we will come to the other side of that conversation because there is no hiding place for megalomania. Transparency leads us to accountability if we only it let.

So I am taking a really different tack on this. Instead of moaning about violations of privacy – what might happen if we strive to make everything transparent. The intelligence machinery will never ever be capable of containing the data of a transparent society. Let’s flood the infrastructure with openness and make irrevelant the mass collection of data.

What might happen if we tried these:

  • Every one sending an email cc’s the NSA, GCHQ, the Police etc on each email they send. I’m sure we can find email addresses for them. Failing that send them to your MP.
  • When your phone bill arrives, take a picture of it and send it as an email to the above groups.
  • Every call you place auto dials the security services so you are always in conference  (I can write software to do this if you are interested).

I’ll tell you what would happen – the world as we know it would end. The internet would crawl to a halt.What then?

The gutter scrapers of the world – most mainstream media outlets – will soon go out of business. When the football player who is having an affair writes casually on his blog that he is bedding multiple women and that his wife and he have talked about it, and you can see all the emails that he has sent, why would you even buy a paper to read it? At some point it would simply not be appealing. If you can see the wedding picture of any celebrity and actually *all* celebrities,  you will quickly get bored of it – I know, I used to be wedding photographer!

But there are bad guys with bombs!

Now I know what you’re thinking – the bad guys are hiding their plans to kill us in our sleep. That may be some truth in this – at least the part that there are people who are currently bent on doing harm. The question we are not genuinely asking is “why?”.

What are they angry about? What have they tried to say peacefully that we didn’t acknowledge? What are we doing to continuously piss them off? Why is there an ‘us’ and ‘them’?

I’m not talking appeasement – and even if I was, so what!.  I’m talking about understanding the unmet needs of people – individuals and groups. At the very least – to listen with an open mind and open heart. Then doing something about it – either help them meet those needs or help society balance the seemingly conflicting needs of its members. If that is not the central role of a government  – I really do not know what is.

If the world did more of this deep and insightful inquiry and actively worked to address those concerns, we might find that most of the sources of global conflict and what we so readily call ‘terrorism’ is based on injustices have been allowed to fester and continue unabated for decades. Israel/Palestine, the impunity of corporations, the rapaciousness of empires, the greed and the broken systems and misguided thinking of limitless growth are all recognized sources of anger in many people in the world. Add to this the  clash of economic classes, the pressure for disappearing resources and the deep abuse of political power. Oh and let’s not forget religion!

Might we find that most of the threats we fear come from real legitimate concerns of people who ordinarily seek to live in peace with everyone else? What might happen if we addressed those legitimate concerns satisfactorily?

And go easy on the labeling

We make things worse by labeling. We label certain countries and groups our ‘allies’ – giving carte blanche to their abuses (ahem Israel, Pakistan). We label fellow human beings ‘terrorists’ (ahem Nelson Mandela), making their very existence null and closing the channel on further inquiry. We make their genuine concerns irrelevant with little regard for the consequences of such ignoring. In a transparent society we would see why those labels exist and we would be able to question them. Transparency leads more often to engagement than privacy does.

To be continued…

I will be raging on privacy vs freedom vs ownership vs modesty vs ‘it is my right’

How might we get to a more transparent global society?

What/who will try and stop us?

 

 

FUALMO – The life lesson you won't find on Oprah.

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2013 has been an amazing year on many accounts. Most notable of these is that my family and I moved to Spain, marking a new and beautiful chapter in an already charmed family life.

Also, 2013 represents the first 12 months of searching for a viable startup business through experimentation – well, almost 12 months.

This brings me to FUALMO.

Fuck Ups are inevitable.

This year has seen me fuck up repeatedly. Mostly with my startup and with my relationship with Katharine – my wife, my partner, my BFF, my ideas bouncer – basically my everything rolled into one beautiful package.

Being absolutely focused on my startups has meant being all consumed by it and being all-affected by what I am experiencing as I build things – the disappointments and the joys (actually there have been far more of the former and too few of the latter – but hey ho!).

I’ve been moody, snappy, inattentive, intolerant and lost in my own thoughts. I have overburdened her, taken her amazing resilience for granted, communicated poorly and generally been a grumpy ass for a good part of the year.

Apologise –  as soon as it’s safe to do so.

One of my enduring strengths is my ability to reflect – almost immediately – on my behaviour. It has often been difficult but I have also learnt to apologise sincerely for my contribution to disharmony.

I used to apologise simply to keep the peace – without really thinking deeply about what it meant to me and to the other person – hey don’t judge me!

But now I tend to apologise with an added description of what I am apologising for. I find it helps me fully understand what I consider the damage I may have done and  knowing I need to do this helps me really think about how the other person feels.

Thankfully Katharine helps this by being open to my apology and providing an insight into how my behavior affected her.

Learn – otherwise what is the point?

Every fuck up is an invitation to understand what need was unmet and to learn more about myself. One huge learning that I made this year was that I a lot of my behavior is down to a need to not be interrupted in thought. I think deeply about stuff. This year has been mostly about startups, what my passion is and home cinemas (yeah – who knew!). But through reflection and analysis of my behavior I learned that I resented being interrupted when I was deep in thought about something. It rarely matters what the interruption – from being called to supper or being invited to a family walk.

Now that I know this is a need I have, I can communicate it and find ways to accommodate it in a more effective and harmonious way.

The difference between failure and truly fucking up is learning. I leave you to figure out which way it works.

Move On – because no one should take that much abuse.

Finally what has really helped me this year has been my improving ability to move on from a fuck up. Some fuck ups have been bigger than others and the time it takes for me to move on from them has varied but, almost without exception, I have been about to get closure on a fuck up.

I am convinced that the steps leading to moving on are critical to being able to just let things go. Without sincere apology, I cannot learn deeply and without learning (and the actions they lead to) I cannot see how I could really move on.

Moving on is essential to my mental and emotional well-being. Without it, things boil and bubble, fury simmers – waiting for the next spark to turn into an explosion. I am lucky that I can recognise when I haven’t moved on – because the new irritation has something to connect to. But through more reflection and sometimes conversation with Katharine I am able to move on from the fuck up.

So whilst this might never make it to Oprah and I’m certainly no Dr Phil – I hope you will consider FUALMO as a sanity-preserving technique to cope with real life. It works for me and it might work for you. Even if you totally ignore everything else I have shared, please consider finding effective ways to move on from behaviors that you do not feel proud off.

Here’s to a 2014 of many failures and fewer fuck ups.

What would you like to share/learn on International Collaboration Day? #iCollday

International Collaboration Day is January 16th

The other day as I had a long overdue hangout with Philip Dodson of @workhubs, Philip mentioned that they were doing some events as part of the International Collaboration Day on the 16th of January 2014.

This event totally piqued my interest – people getting together and making magic through sincere and passionate pursuit of what might emerge -what’s not to love?

I thought of how I might participate in this unique and inspiring event and I thought why not have a completely virtual openspace-inspired event around the topic of collaboration. Use a framework built entirely by and for collaboration for a collaboration themed event! I say it is Openspace inspired because I believe unless you follow the word and spirit of Harrison Owen’s technique , it really shouldn’t be called an Open Space – that’s my opinion.

Never heard of Open Space Technology? No worries, read up about it here.

What will you share/learn?

So here is my idea – 16 sessions of anything you want to talk about, learn or explore around what collaboration means in this connected world we live in. It might be an experience you want to share or hear about. It might even be an invitation to collaborate on something after the event.

The possibilities are endless. Whatever happens is the only thing that could.

iCollabDay

My mockup of what the MarketPlace might look like.

Whoever Comes Are The Right People

I can do this alone, but it will be hard and really no fun. I need your help for this to rock. By joining in this effort you will have so much fun it won’t even feel like hard work and you will for sure learn and have many opportunities to share.

Here are some ways you can help:

Join in organising it: to get this going ASAP, I figure we’ll need folk to code, make things useful and delightful to use and spread the word and get folk to propose great sessions etc. Email me or tweet me now and let’s get going.

Think of something to propose – The marketplace will open on January 2nd 2014. Although the details are emerging here is what I know now:

    • You’ll need to make a 60 second video pitch of your idea – what is the core of it, why will it interest anyone?
    • Sessions will be scheduled for 1 hour but in true Open Space style – they will last as long as you there are people learning and sharing.
    • This will be entirely virtual and we’ll use Google hangouts which has some collaboration tools like a whiteboard. It’s awesome – but different from the ease of being in the same space. The more you prepare to communicate your content effectively, the better your session is likely to be.
    • Get set to attend one or more sessions – get mentally prepared, if you don’t have a camera on your internet device make plans to acquire one, make the time – book something in your calendar.

      Spread the word – gatherings are about people. People bring the magic. This event will suck if no one comes – that said, whoever comes are the right people. Help spread the word on all your networks. Collaboration affects everyone and we could all be better at it. Click your favorite share channel below. It is the least you can do.

      If this event does not float your boat, go check out the International Collaboration Day website and find something that does. If there really isn’t anything – propose something and make it happen.

       

I take solace in the indestructibility of energy.

One of my dearest friend’s mummy died this Christmas and I feel so deeply saddened to hear the news. It also touches that part of me that is unprepared for the inevitable passing of my own mummy. I take much solace from this. If you have lost someone you love, I hope you find some comfort in this too.

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him/her that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let him/her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her/his eyes, that those photons created within her/him constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.

– Aaron Freeman

Mrs Iluyomade, may your energy continue to light the hearts of all whose lives you touched.

Why @whatsapp just became one of my favourite companies and I don't even use their software.

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Image courtesy of Whatsapp

I’m getting old.

I don’t hanker after gadgets as much as I used to and I’m not connected to the latest app fads. Plus I wear crocs.

But I read this blog post from the founders of WhatsApp –  a mobile app that lets you doing instant message to anyone in the world for free. As apps go – it is not very exciting for me. I’ve written a few myself and to be fair that space is very crowded. Yet they are loved by their users (my daughters and my sister at least) because they have a great product that they love and it shows.

What made me so totally love this company though is not its product or it huge user base but a glimpse into the fabric of the character of the company.

They don’t sell ads because for the same reasons that I will never sell ads on any application that I build. I especially love them because they were gifted with the ability to articulate their reasons so eloquently.

I’ve never completely understood advertising because fundamentally I think people search for what they need. So really what we could do with is better searching – easier ways to pull and not more places to have things pushed at one. Perhaps the most insidious aspect of advertising is that users become the product – eyeballs to be bought, sold and ad-sensed. That really grates me.

Advertising and the satellite industries around it seem to run the world. I wonder how it might change.

So – thank you Whatsapp – from one maker to another – keeping fighting the good fight and doing good work.

What happens on #Twitter when someone like #Mandela dies

I was going to title this post – ‘What billions of silent voices screaming at the same time look like’ – but it seemed too dramatic.

As I was about to release the pre-beta of my new app Hashies, the news came on the wire that Nelson Mandela had died. I wasn’t particularly shocked – more relieved actually. I do feel like I have lost a beloved grandfather – I think most of the world feels the same. But in the last few months, the situation around him and the media frenzy was grotesque to say the least. I wished nothing more than a peaceful passing on for Mr Mandela and when it came I felt only relief and gratitude for a beautiful brave life.

Hashies tracks what people are saying on a hashtag in near real time. Given the news, ‘#Mandela’ seemed the way to go. Before I heard the news – it was going to be ‘#JustinBeiber’ – glad it wasn’t!

Enough said, here is what it looked like.

And just to be sure – there is no one quite like Mr Mandela. And there is unlikely to ever be. RIP Madiba.