Finding my Theme, again. Part 4 – Upsetting tradition

Finding my Theme, again. Part 4 – Upsetting tradition

Reading Time: 3 minutes
  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that something is exciting at the intersection of _______ and _______
  2. I sincerely believe that the world needs _______
  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______
  4. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and _______

So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestley. The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life.

Last year my business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID, leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. In contrast, I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to find out where I want to be before starting again.

So here is the final part, trying to answer the questions above and maybe from there, I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business venture.

My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix a traditional domain with something unexpected

The status quo, the traditional, the institutionalized, the norm. These things are often there not because they are good, efficient, or effective but because they are familiar, tried, and tested. Some of the institutions we work with and struggle with are dinosaurs, and their traditions are now holding back entire industries. Some of these are more obvious to see, school curriculums based on old textbooks training students for work that may not even exist when they enter the market. Language teachers training language teachers about intelligence types, when even the person who coined the term later said it wasn’t accurate.

Fair to say I’m not a big fan of things that have calcified and now hold us back. This isn’t usually any particular person’s fault; it’s the nature of the beast; the larger the institution, the more calcified and rigid it becomes. Governments and the systems of administration are obvious culprits. They tend to be huge established institutions where the people in charge have spent 40 years in that institution mastering its various systems. Why would they want to change or disrupt it? Those who arrive fresh-faced with ideas tend to be ignored, and so the cycle continues.

Also, the larger the beast, the slower and more difficult it is to make any changes. To change you need key players to get on board, you need to produce documents and arguments as to why the idea will help the institution. These organizations suffer not from a lack of intelligence or willingness from participants. Usually, it’s the massive gears of bureaucracy that grind the change-makers under. That’s also why you tend to find huge changes in an industry coming from the outside. Not necessarily someone ignorant of the domain but someone who independently pushes a solution. Something that would have been impossible from within.

woman in red long sleeve writing on chalk board

“The entire education system is a beast of tradition

Take Khan Academy 1, creating a whole new MOOC approach for people to learn at home. It wasn’t that training videos like this hadn’t been suggested before YouTube had existed for ages. Teachers suggested it as a means to teach maths over traditional drilling. But the entire education system is a beast of tradition. Trying to suggest this to the government would warrant meetings and hearings, budget reviews, and of course, the training required. Technology is a key part of this disruption. Of course, tech is getting cheaper and cheaper, smarter and smarter, and it’s going to appear in some unexpected places in the upcoming years.

But it’s not just in the world of politics and institutions that I find this interesting. I love it when people take a well-known concept or industry and turn it on its head by doing something unexpected. The traditional fantasy genre tropes that were with us since Lord Of The Rings got torn up with the movie Bright on Netflix. Of course, people hated or loved it. It took what they were familiar with and upended it. In my youth, the tales of Drizzt, a noble Dark Elf who was the antithesis of his race. Essentially, and I think this is something I need to write more about, any institution or domain that has remained entrenched in its ways for more than 50 years is probably an area that should be looked at from an entrepreneurial standpoint.

  1. https://khanacademy.org[]
Finding my Theme, again. Part 3 – find your tribe

Finding my Theme, again. Part 3 – find your tribe

Reading Time: 4 minutes
  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that something is exciting at the intersection of _______ and _______
  2. I sincerely believe that the world needs _______
  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______
  4. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and _______

So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestley. The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life.

Last year my business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID, leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. In contrast, I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to find out where I want to be before starting again.

So here is part 3 of 4, trying to answer the questions above and maybe from there, I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business venture.

Never in history has there been a better time for finding or creating your tribe. 

The first time I heard about the context of modern tribes was back in 2009 (holy crap where did 12 years go) when Seth Godin gave his TED talk on the subject. It’s such a great talk I’ll link it here so you can watch it now.

It’s a remarkably uplifting talk showing how many businesses are interested in tackling problems that will raise the standard of living, education, and the human condition to greater heights. Also, as it clearly says in yellow, it’s about Tribes. We all have, or at least want to have a tribe. A place where we belong and those around us support and reaffirm our place in the world. As he states in the talk above:

The Internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all. Instead what it’s allowed is silos of interest. So you’ve got the red-hat ladies over here. You’ve got the red-hat triathletes over there. You’ve got the organized armies over here. You’ve got the disorganized rebels over here. You’ve got people in white hats making food. And people in white hats sailing boats. The point is that you can find Ukrainian folk dancers and connect with them because you want to be connected. That people on the fringes can find each other, connect and go somewhere.

Seth Godin: The tribes we lead TED

Of course, this has a dark side, a glance at the Qanon community, anti-vaccine sentiment, and far right groups also can find each other and feed each other to fuel their hate. The exact force for good envisioned by Godin here is equally good at creating silos of extremism. With humans at the whim of such effects as cognitive-dissonance 1, Dunning-Kreuger 2 and confirmation bias 3 the Internet is a place where our inner prejudices can be refined and sharpened as easily as our values and humanity.

However, despite the risks, finding your tribe has a lot of benefits, if you’re surrounded by optimistic, forward-thinking people, you tend to take on that mindset. If you have regular discussions with others about ways to improve the world around you and how things have improved that can be a real boost. If you cannot find people already in groups that share your ideas and goals, then the internet has made it an incredibly simple task to reach out to them. If your Tribe has a bonding goal whether it is running a better company or building mars colonies there is no harm in seeking out that group and leaving if it’s not for you.

Side note: Not all your Tribe will agree

Crowd of protestors

While it would be great if you could find a group of ideal people to talk with you need to be prepared to understand that not everyone will share your point of view. In any group, you’ll have conspiracy theorists, crackpots, and trolls, who won’t follow your line. As Seth says about the schism in the Balloon Animal community. Don’t expect any group over the size of 1 to agree on all points. Even if everyone in a group is in agreement that GMOs are good, or that God doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean you won’t have racists, homophobes, and bigots as well.

People are more nuanced than their tribe and even if everyone agrees on a broad topic “let’s save the planet” you’ll have a million different ideas on how to do that. So in light of all that, what do we do with the tribes we are building?

Making tribes, not tribalism

One of the greatest threats to the progress of humanity is one of its greatest strengths. We seek out a tribe but then we get caught in an “Us vs Them” mindset. We see it clearest in politics these days, where we vilify and demonize our “enemy” or hero-worship our “spokesperson” to the point where the group cannot accept anything said by the other as true or right. We dig deeper and trenches and then refuse to notice or consider them. These chasms of understanding are not always rational, many are based on prior convictions or worse outright manipulations by fundamentalists in any given tribe. If you feel that you don’t have any preconvictions or prejudices, I have some bad news for you, it’s almost impossible as a human being to not have them. It takes considerable effort to take a step back from something and really consider it, particularly if you have a long-standing belief to the contrary.

So while I deeply believe that we can all find our tribe out there I worry that without an accompanying caution of our nature and a study of critical personal reflection we may cause as many problems as we solve.

  1. https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html[]
  2. https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/dunning-kruger-effect/[]
  3. https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/confirmation-bias[]
Finding my Theme, again. Part 2

Finding my Theme, again. Part 2

Reading Time: 3 minutes
  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that something is exciting at the intersection of _______ and _______
  2. I sincerely believe that the world needs _______
  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______
  4. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and _______

So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestley. The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life.

Last year my business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID, leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. In contrast, I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to find out where I want to be before starting again.

So here is part 2 of 4, trying to answer the questions above and maybe from there, I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business venture.

I deeply believe that the world needs to invest heavily in transformative technologies such as AI, robotics and Space exploration. 

Many people have come to think of science and technology negatively while ignoring the massive benefits it has brought about globally. Yes, globally that’s a whole other topic, but you can read more about it the incredible progress humanity has seen in the last 50 years in almost every conceivable metric. But as stated in the link “That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.”

The objective facts show that the world has gone through a massive shift in the standard of living, reduced violence, and currently, more people die of obesity than famine. While it does seem difficult to believe considering the constant pain and suffering, we see every day on the news. Humanity is on the cusp of making the world a healthier and happier place for all its inhabitants. Not universally and not uniformly, that is sadly true. But technologies are emerging that will soon help reach millions of lives and enrich health, longevity, and the environment in ways that are hard to imagine. 

The three main areas that interest me are AI, robotics and Space exploration partly due to my interests in these domains and partly because of the growth and potential in those domains to revolutionalise what humanity can do and become. AI is already making inroads into providing new insights into medicine 1 and even identifying disease in scans 2. This is only the beginning, as the technology has only really come into its own in the last ten years (after decades of research), the actual impacts of AI are only just beginning to emerge. They will impact every area of society over the next 15 years: better medical treatments, batteries, material designs, processes, and energy savings are all within our reach. Imagine a system that can find us better and faster ways to solve every problem from waste to power production. 

Of course, such systems will be used for purposes both benign and nefarious. For every use of deep learning to produce a cure for something another group will use the same technology to patent a treatment, image processing Deepfakes, hacking into accounts or scamming people in more subtle ways without ever requiring a human in the loop. But that should not stop us from pushing hard and fast to get these technologies operating at maximum speed and efficiency, the economics of the world are going to undergo a radical shift if we can have near-infinite cheap energy, a global high-speed internet and the vast resources available in the asteroid belt around the solar system.

  1. https://deepmind.com/blog/article/AlphaFold-Using-AI-for-scientific-discovery[]
  2. https://deepmind.com/blog/announcements/announcing-deepmind-health-research-partnership-moorfields-eye-hospital[]
Finding my Theme, again. – Technology and Society

Finding my Theme, again. – Technology and Society

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Your theme will take the form of a rant that begins with any of these four sentences.
  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt there is something exciting at the intersection of _______ and _______
  2. I deeply believe that the world needs _______
  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______
  4. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and _______
So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestley . The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life. Last year my business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID. Leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. While I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to try and find out where I want to be before starting off again. So here is part 1 of 4, trying to answer the questions above and maybe from there I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business venture.
So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestly. The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life.  Last year by business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID. Leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. While I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to try and find out where I want to be before starting off again.  So here are my answers to the 4 questions above and maybe from there I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business.  

1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt there is something exciting at the intersection of technological progress and society.

The rate of change in technology is exponential, every day a new system, technology or breakthrough is opening the doors to a whole new potential place of innovation and growth. Society and culture as a whole lag behind the rate of change. This is pretty standard for almost every form of tech, partly because it takes 20 to 30 years for a tech to really make it into mass usage. Part of this is due to the problem of getting buy in from the majority which requires a typical a period of convincing (and collaborating with) Innovators and Early adopters. You can see this with cases of companies resisting moving to the Cloud or avoiding developing their sites for a mobile/tablet audience. 

The adoption of products graph

Of course while there are technical examples everywhere social change and legal fights follow similar trajectories. Battles for GLBTQ rights have been an ongoing struggle for years and are only starting to gain traction in what you might call the “early majority”. But I really like seeing how technical change impacts society in a more tangible way. For example AI is in its nascent phase right now. But already it’s starting to make it’s impact felt in biotechnology whether it’s identifying cancer 1 or creating superior ways to understand the nature of our biology 2 Automated cars and trucks will be (already are) driving the streets long before the lawmakers are ready. Deepfakes and faceswaps create horrendous personal rights and authenticity issues. Space travel while a slow start has gone from prices at $10k per Kg to LEO in 2006 to $970 per Kg in 2020 3. Which is allowing the emergence of global satellite internet constellations.   While there are bad sides to every technology its transformative power is undeniable, we are liberating data, information and reducing labour at an unheard of rate. We, as a society, need to try and see where that impact will be in an active way rather than a passive reactive manner. 

Current interests in this domain

Space, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are set to revolutionise the world in the coming decades. Not just in what is possible but also in how it will impact our everyday lives. The confluence of high-speed, low latency, global broadband from satellite constellations combined with ever improving AI and the constant refinement and improving of robotics, will upend massive parts of our current labour, production and supply chain.

Thats a bit out of the scope of this blog post so I’ll leave you with Boston Dynamics New Years offering to wet your appetite. 

  1. https://nypost.com/2020/01/02/google-ai-spots-breast-cancer-better-than-doctors-study-finds/[]
  2. https://deepmind.com/blog/article/AlphaFold-Using-AI-for-scientific-discovery[]
  3. https://www.futuretimeline.net/data-trends/6.htm[]
How to find your purpose (attempt 1)

How to find your purpose (attempt 1)

Reading Time: 8 minutesSo if you read my last post on passion being overrated then you’ll know I have embarked on a journey of self discovery to find my why, my raison d’être and not necessarily a particular activity that I enjoy but the reason behind my motivations.

The Daniel Priestley rant method

I have just listened to the Entrepreneur Revolution, 3 times… It’s partly what made me start this process in the first place. All that aside you should really read the book itself to get a good sense of all that he talks about.

In the book Daniel says that while he believes peoples passions are important, they are not enough. His theory is that our ‘theme’ is usually hard to articulate and can be better expressed as a diatribe or rant on something we feel strongly about. By doing this we can start to grasp our motivations and inherent interests.

Rather than pontificate about the book (seriously, read it, if you have any interest in being a self governed entrepreneur it’s a must) I’ll just give you the phrases he suggests you use to start your rant, and then I’ll attempt it.

Discovering Your Theme

  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt there is something exciting at the the intersection of _______ and _______

  2. I deeply believe that the world needs _______

  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______

  1. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and / with _______

So there you go! Try them yourself, you needn’t read on to see my rants but I have found the experience very revealing, so I strongly suggest it to everyone.

For as long as I can remember I’ve felt there is something exciting at the the intersection of society and  technology.

What I mean to say is that technology and the development of systems like genetics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics are moving at such a pace that they are quickly entrenching themselves into every aspect of our lives. The technical push that is happening today is faster than at any point in history.

The exponential growth of computers, the increased understanding of our genetics and the innovations of electrical engineers are converging in ways that their inventors and discoverers could never have predicted. The future has always inspired me and for much of my youth I was both entranced by the future technologies and the progress mankind has made, conversely I am also extremely fascinated by our history as well. I think that there are elements of our history that need to be reinvigorated or cut away if we are to step into this future with our eyes open and focussed.

The technological progress in the world is far outstripping our economic and social development, fundamental changes to the way data, economics and global business are practised are not being utilized effectively at a society or governmental level because people either don’t see it coming, fear the change it may bring or don’t know how best to apply the changes.

On the social side, peoples entire social framework is changing due to the internet, people are shedding privacy and embracing openness, fun childhood antics, once online, stay there, forever. People have more information, more data, more inputs than ever before but we still use an archaic method of education that punishes people for doing things we reward in the real world (think about copying, collaborating, finding the answers online, getting someone smarter than you to do it for a reward).

People need to realise how different the world we live in will be, not in 1000 years but in 10 – 30 years time. Any child born today will be at a career age by 2032. If you think you know what life will be like at that date I would say your either a prophet or deeply misled.

I deeply believe that world needs to better prepare people for life now and the future.

People living now need to embrace the technology we have invented to help reinvent the systems that are entrenched in our social, business and political models. We also need to educate and inspire people to reach their potential in this world.

Education is not, as many people believe,  a preparation for life. Public education holds a minimal amount of vocational skills. Academic focus, and subject preference has lead to a hierarchy of importance for different subjects, it also highly compartmentalizes them removing the myriad ways you can relate to and understand the topic. For someone far more eloquent than I to explain things you should watch this video by Sir Ken Robinson:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY[/youtube]

In fact I would say read and watch everything he does, he speaks fantastically well and he nails the fundamental problem of how we treat education, what the problems are, and why it needs to change.

I especially agree with him that we need to realise that the fundamentals of any education are not any particular group of superior subjects or disciplines, the fundamentals of education are the purpose for which we do this. Until everyone can talk about exactly what the purpose(s) of public mass education are, it is almost meaningless to talk about the hows, the whats, means and processes required to reach the desired result.

I believe we need to teach people learning strategies and methodologies, techniques to find data and analyse the validity of what we find, we need to stop trying to have people memorize the order of the kings and queens of England and start having them take apart why wars started in the past and how democracies have formed. We need to teach kids and adults alike to be adaptable, note opportunities and use every mental resource they have to approach the world around them.

Never in the history of the human race have we had access to more opulence and information than we do now, and those lucky few of us born into this life need to educate each other and our children to use this opportunity to our fullest possible potential.

Never in history has there been a better time for reinventing and restructuring the societies and organisations we live and work in.

Whether we are talking about archaic paper based governing systems, cultural ideas that have become like bloated ethical appendices, or ageing computer software and technology  that are used simply because they have always been there and they work.  I have seen COBOL programs running in international finance institutions, I have seen thousands of pounds worth of stock sitting in warehouses and unused behind desks, simply because people ignored the problem for so long that a minor inconvenience earlier have expanded outward like a malignant tumour.

Think of it like the cables behind your TV, when was the last time dared look there, I imagine you haven’t because there is no longer a neatly organised set of leads but a spaghetti junction of interlacing confusion. The dirt under your couch the disorganized closet or bathroom draw full to the brim of various accumulated junk are typical examples of things that need to be organised. While these examples are minor inconveniences at best, the problem is that human nature does not end at the individual, companies, multinationals and even whole countries are riddled with similar issues.

Left to fester these problems can and have caused disaster. From ageing computer systems opening the companies to cyber attacks to entrenched systems of education that no longer reflect the actual needs of society. I believe it is necessary for companies and governments to look internally and seek new radical forms of change that will make processes and systems faster, more effective, clearer and more empowering for the people who interact with them.

My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix traditional or established ideas with unfamiliar or unusual settings.

This really has just emerged as I’ve been writing the above but I have always liked putting things in unfamiliar settings or roles. To go way back in time, when I was at university and before I used to be into RPG’s. Yes I know it’s hard to believe that someone as nerdy as I was once even geekier and yet, here we are.

The reason I mention them isn’t because of the games per se. I still have fond memories of my friends and I battling beasties and solving convoluted issues. It’s the fact I made my own. Not just settings and scenarios from a 2000AD like future to a fantasy land set in the modern era. But I also created all the rules, cultures and tried to move away from the established settings that dominated the genres at the time.

For just an example I created a fantasy setting seething with problems of inter-cultural and inter-species unrest, I wanted to put all the tropes of fantasy into the setting but in the wrong order. The orcs (famous from Lord of the Rings) ended up being a sage, tribal species that communed with nature and were more akin to monks or Native Americans than their typical violent incarnations. By contrast the Elves were a complete product of survivalist  mentality, completely warlike and somewhere between a predator and a hostile hive mentality like killer bee’s.

Ollllld artwork, back when I could still draw. I must return to this level again. Based on Cat skull.

My design for an Orc for one of my settings.

Fear not I won’t bore you with all my games, monsters and systems, of which there were far too many, but it does illustrate me trying to put things we know or are accustomed to in different perspectives, tinkering with combing  different ideas to make something fresh. It also had me designing and testing new rule systems to try and find new and ways to simulate real life in game play.

In a more recent creative enterprise I started my thoughts about how a kibbutz like community or monastic group based upon science, reason and technology could work. I spent literally hours of time on buses writing Exploration I. I am still writing up that thought experiment now and will probably continue with it along with other thoughts about how communities can function.

I have similar views on education, take for example the grading system that exists presently in schools. The idea of grading implies a scale of which there are numerous levels. In the European languages there 6 official levels based on the CEFR. In the UK the music exams are graded from 1 to 8, with Grade 1 being the entry level, and Grade 8 being the standard required for entry to higher study in a music college. Different courses at GCSE and A-Level are marked from A* – G, another 7 levels, although anything below C is considered largely irrelevant, the same can be said for Degrees 1st with honours – pass, so we can say in total between GCSE and a PHd there are 5 qualification GCSE, A-Level, Degree, Masters, Doctorate. But each grade is not a continuous line and each one is considered a separate mark in comparison to the others.

If however one compares this to the usage of Japanese Kyū and Dan grades in martial arts and sports, you find the levels extend over a much larger bigger scale. From 10 Kyū – 1 Kyū where you learn the basics and then from 1st Dan – 10th Dan where you attempt to perfect them. This is a whopping 20 nuanced levels from absolute beginner to someone considered the world class expert (as decided by a council of their peers). That would mean 10th Kyū would be the kid starting science classes at 10 years old and Stephen Hawkins being 10th Dan.

Why is this important? Because while the traditional belt and grade system of Japan is archaic it shoes a much more nuanced appreciation of evolution than the western grading system. Imagine I take a year of mathematics A-level (ages 16-18 in the UK) but after a year and a half I get ill and can’t continue. By all official standards I have learned nothing, no qualification = no level. But we know that’s not the case, I would have studied quadratics, functions, vectors, integration e.t.c. I should have elevated my grade from before. A consistent clear and unbroken elevation of levels in a subject until you reach higher education (Dan) and specialise, just seems to make more sense than testing people nationally once every 2-4 years.

In such a system there would be constant assessment by local bodies on specific skills, you could imagine if not a belt system a scout badge system that states I have mastered ‘Trigonometry’ in the same way that the Scout badges proudly proclaim I have mastered ‘Fire building’. On that note why not have a

Rant accomplished, now it’s your turn

Wow, that was interesting! I don’t know how Daniel Priestley thought of this method but it works. I feel I could have written for a lot longer on those topics I think I’ll write about them in a book for now, I don’t want to fill my blog with every random musing.

Certainly given me a lot to consider. I’ll try some other methods over the coming weeks anyway to see what more I can dredge up.

If you do a rant of your own then tell me in the comments! I’d be interested to read it!