c.11mins in to the particular podcase, Phil notes:
"there's something about being in the congregation...empowering, singing and chanting"
Being "in the congregation" is a great way to describe the almost religious fervour you feel as terrace footsoldier. Which can be just as scary to those alongside you as to those watching over you...for more on the history of crowds and religious fervour, go read this
2. Songs have no obvious parents
c.20 mins in, Phil muses on how songs emerge from a crowd of fans almost fully formed:
"...do they book a rehearsal space, did they workshop it?"
"At a reserve game, maybe" suggests one participant to much laughter
"[Songs] just suddenly emerge. It's like they've all got together and rehearsed it"
Distributed intelligence but it seems a little bit like magic, doesn't it?
A really useful reminder of the limits of our individual cognitive abilities: how unequal our backward and forward thinking is.
Looking back at the rise of something successful like Star Trek), it's hard to imagine that anyone ever thought it might not turn out that way: who were those fools who cancelled the original series....? (of course, we don't think about all the things that failed...)
Looking forward, though, is much harder: which cultural phenomena will turn out to be this successful? How can you tell? The bones, the flight of birds, numerology, some feature of the thing like it's stickiness?
Now, it'd be great if we did have that kind of power but the truth is we don't: we just like to imagine we're good at prediction or that some of us have a gift.
All too easily our poor distorted minds deceive us - about probability and chance and our abilities as agents or diviners.
Interesting piece of research in the Guardian today suggests that the people the music industry calls "pirates" might actually be the thing that keeps the industry going, given they spend more on music than the rest of us...
Of course, it's hard to see that when all you can see is "theft" and "piracy" - when you see the people that keep your business going only in terms of the financial transaction....when you see them as economic agents rather than communities and conversations which you serve...
Surely, it's a good thing that people are really obsessed with your music? And stuff related to it? That it works strongly enough on them as a social object to provoke conversation and interaction?
Some of it they'll pay for, some not; the point being that it doesn't really matter so long as they are passionate and are happy to pay for something! (As opposed to being bored rigid by insipid factory-produced pap which they are not prepared to pay for...)
"There was not a run on the banks by depositors queuing in the streets to
withdraw their savings. Rather, it was an escalating and terrifying run
on the banks in effect by themselves, which, if it spread to millions
of small savers, would reproduce the events of 1929"
"For this recession
is palpably the result of the collapse of what was, in effect, a
gigantic pyramid debt selling scheme. The City's rise was feted by
politicians across the political spectrum, none more than Gordon Brown,
confusing Ponzi finance as innovation and creativity"
He then underlines the desire of Wall St (and the City) to go back to how things were and how fundamentally wrong-headed this is.
to borrow more, even with the budget deficit this high, in order to
create jobs. And yes, we need the state to build a banking system that
supports enterprise and innovation, rather than making fortunes for its
personnel from gigantic Ponzi schemes.
The old business model is
bust. The government, under duress, finally did the right thing last
autumn. It must not regress to old mistakes this spring."
24 hours on, the experience of DB is now beginning to make sense to me (maybe I'm just slow)
On the one hand, I think I'm now beginning to understand the obsession (both on the day and in the interim report) with plumbing, content manufacturing and content distribution (and the preponderance of grey suits that Joanne pointed out in the twitterstream). It's all about the benjamins: this where the money and the power and the status quo is today.
On the other, it's equally clear why the future that digital technology brings is hard for these folks to understand: many of the people and companies represented yesterday are paid to keep the current model going and just don't want to see the digital technology as anything but a means to turbo-charge the current model. It's just too scary to contemplate anything else.
Whereas of course (as I've mentioned before) the point about digital technology is that it changes the game entirely: it's not a means of the connecting of people to people that changes everything. The digitial revolution is going to be about the emergent stuff that arises from this phenomenon and our success in connecting ourselves to each other in new and ever more interesting and intuitive ways.
This I think explains why what Anthony Lilley & Stephen Fry [Huzzah!] had to say contrasted so markedly with what the likes of Lucien, Sly, and Caroline had to say. Each of the latter lead a business with just about the most to lose from the reality of peer-to-peer; each of the former delights in and is empowered by the new world. No wonder the representatives on the status quo are insisting on last ditch defence (frankly, they sounded ridiculous yesterday)
But be assured of this: the revolution is on its way. The question is whether we can get this nation working with it rather than resisting it - pretending it's not going to happen - in time to take advantage of it (rather than having to play catch up). I'm up for the challenge, anyway.
One other thing: I think I now know understand why the status quo have to be involved in consultation. No government would be able to ignore these folks. Not just because there are some plumbing questions to sort which only they can do, but because you'd want to believe that some of these businesses at least could evolve their way through the singularity that's approaching; that even if they crumble (as they probably will) that they'd be likely to spawn successors in the new digital, p2p world. And to be honest, they're a key part of the ecosystem.
PS Here's the FAKE report. If you've got something to say, do so, please
Found an interesting piece in the Sunday Times Mag yesterday [naturally not yet on the website] by a scientist whose work I much admire.
Nicholas Humphrey (prime mover of the Social Intelligence hypothesis - that our minds are made for a world of others) muses on what the non-believer can make of the reassuring idea of the soul and its immortality
"The soul is a biological invention that long predates religion. The human mind evolved by natural selection to have a conscious self at its centreL a self that, while a product of the material brain thinks of tiself as something else - an immaterial soul. My atheist soul is up there with the best of them. And the souls of atheists, no less than those of religious believers, aspire to live on indefinitely and fear oblivion. That's a main part of the job for which natural selection has designed them
...[the] remarkable trick for persuading individual [human] survival machines to fulfil their less-than-glorious role... was to endow each individual with the mental programmes for developing a a conscious self that grows to see itself existing as very much an end in its own right: a self that, besides doing all it can to ensure its own basic comfort and security, typically strives for self-development...to make more of itself through learning, creativity, love, spiritual growth, social influence symbolic expression and so on. ...Such "selfish souls" do indeed make wonderful agents for "selfish genes".
Shows how focusing on simple information can help us navigate complex phenomena much better than the kind of complicated datasets we instinctively feel we need to build in.
Much like the (probably erroneous) story of the young intern who trumped the NASA Mars Explorer team's design for a self-navigating exploration vehicle with something he knocked up with parts from Radio Shack: their design was for a vehicle the size of a tank which scanned and analysed a yard of ground in great detail before computing what to do next; his was for much smaller machine that kept going forward until it couldn't and then and only then sought to understand the lay of the land...(anyone know the source of this story?)
Similarly, in the case of tweenbots, it's quite clear that a key part of the design is to outsource cognitive load to agents in the environment in which you expect the thing to survive - not to overload the thing with stuff it doesn't need or with stuff that duplicates what already exists in the context you have chosen for it
Over the course of...months, throughout numerous missions,
the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to
their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the
robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or
became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and
send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged.
Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the
“right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a
perilous situation. One man turned the robot back in the direction from
which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, "You can’t go
that way, it’s toward the road.”
It's like designing people into your marketing. Not as ciphers or symbols but as co-creators and collaborators.
Or perhaps like leaving spaces where the people go.
Or even like thinking about designing within a pre-existing ecosystem, rather than clumsily imposing yourself.
What if we tried calling business' obsession with "efficiency" and cost-management as a bad thing - when a company pays the cheapest price for raw materials, components or staff costs, it's probably not got anyone else's interest in mind but that of its shareholders...Selfishness, again
A pro-social business would take a pride in paying the right price for ingredients (think Fairtrade for the developed world).
Wondering around Toronto yesterday in the Spring Sunshine (yay!), Russell's New Schtick came to mind - you know, that stuff about technology that connects people and things and people in new and interesting ways
This [murmur] puts you and your phone in contact with a real (recorded) humanoid telling you titbits of local history.
So much more exciting than a leaflet or a placard (and no, the peeps on the right are not to scale. At the moment, you have to call the number, but I imagine folk have already found other ways to do this.
This is a really important issue to chew on right now, after several decades of creep of the idea of "economic value" into every aspect of our lives, after all the distortion of our institutions (both private and public) by the same notion (despite the clear learnings from the likes of Richard Layard & Oliver James that economic value is largely irrelevant to the stuff that really matters to people like...oh, happiness), after those greedy so-and-sos in fancy suits... "set our money on fire"
"a bigger break with the economic and moral assumptions of the past
30 years...[than we're currently imagining]...a return to the conviction that economic growth and
the affluence it brings is a means and not an end. The end is what it
does to the lives, life-chances and hopes of people. Look at London. Of
course it matters to all of us that London's economy flourishes. But
the test of the enormous wealth generated in patches of the capital is
not that it contributed 20%-30% to Britain's GDP but how it affects the
lives of the millions who live and work there. What kind of lives are
available to them? Can they afford to live there? If they can't, it is
not compensation that London is also a paradise for the ultra-rich. Can
they get decently paid jobs or jobs at all? If they can't, don't brag
about all those Michelin-starred restaurants and their self-dramatising
chefs. Or schooling for children? Inadequate schools are not offset by
the fact that London universities could field a football team of Nobel
For London read your home town. It's that long forgotten idea of social capital - the common-wealth, our shared world, my friends.
Going forward, maybe "[t]he test of...policy [should] not be private but public, not just
rising income and consumption for individuals, but widening the
opportunities and what Amartya Sen calls the "capabilities" of all"
[for those of a nervous disposition, please note the "not just" - this is not an either/or]
As individual financial businesses seem to be conveniently rediscovering how rooted they are in society and how connected they are to the rest of us (having done every darn thing to deny it*) as we bail them out, so maybe our ideas about what economic activity and growth are for might need a bit of a rethink.
Of course, there are going to be people telling you that when the markets lift again, it's going to be business as usual and that the certainties of the last 30 years are worth holding onto (indeed, MUST be held onto for fear of...I don't know what). But they would say that wouldn't they?
We've got too much to sort out for that kind of lazy stuff, haven't we?
Over the last few weeks, I've been travelling quite a lot.
Superficially, it's so that others can hear what passes for my wisdom but to be honest, I always hope to learn more from interacting with other folk, either:
1. from what they have to say for themselves 2. from what they have to say in response to my stuff 3. from what emerges generally in interaction with other folk and other cultures
This jaunt seems to have to taught me a couple of really important things that I thought worth sharing. So here goes:
a. There's a widespread feeling that things don't work like they're supposed to (in particular, as James suggests they-out-there are moving away from us) b. The social thing is now widely accepted (or more specifically no longer rejected out of hand) but there are still some pretty wierd ideas around (e.g. there MUST be "special" individuals, mustn't there?) c. there are still a lot of folk trying to squeeze the social stuff into old "I" models and frameworks ("We" as an additive to persuasion marketing, anyone?)
If there is one little mantra which I've found helps shift thinking and practice, it's this:
Whatever you want to do, do it "with" people, (not "to" or "at" them)