Notes: grey goo, permanence or otherwise, perspectives on Ross Anderson

The metaphors we use change how we think about things. Benjamin Santos Genta writes for Aeon about this, and in particular how many of our metaphors relate to war. Might an argument be better as a dance than a battle? (I've been trying to demilitarise my work language for a while; it's not always easy. You can, though, feed two birds with one scone, but that works less well with international colleagues.) ReliefWeb reports on research into the value for money of recent humanitarian innovations . It was good to see my old colleagues at Field Ready featured. Field Ready piloted a new model of localized medical product manufacturing in Syria, involving healthcare worker training, enhanced digital technology, and partnership-building between local medical device suppliers and medical facilities. Their pilot significantly reduced the time, costs, and carbon emissions of medical device production and repair without compromising product quality. TripleLine found that the aggreg

Notes: trust and cultural angles on AI; internet stuff; climate response

Thanks Luis Villa for this write up of the current Vizio case (GPL enforcement).  The head of the National Audit Office, Gareth Davies, gave a thoughtful speech to Parliament on why good governance matters, especially for the UK's public sector, now.  Trust and AI was the topic of Bruce Schneier 's September talk at the Harvard Kennedy School: Trust is essential to society. Humans as a species are trusting. We are all sitting here, mostly strangers, confident that nobody will attack us. If we were a roomful of chimpanzees, this would be impossible. We trust many thousands of times a day. Society can’t function without it. And that we don’t even think about it is a measure of how well it all works. In this talk, I am going to make several arguments. One, that there are two different kinds of trust—interpersonal trust and social trust—and that we regularly confuse them. Two, that the confusion will increase with artificial intelligence. We will make a fundamental category

A climate unconference report

The wise Alex Deschamps-Sonsino organised a climate unconference to coincide with COP28. It was a lovely thought-provoking event with a lot of rich conversations, of which more below. What with this, and Barcamp London a couple of weeks ago, it feels like the indie/punk/grassroots approach to convening is reviving, and about time too. There is a lot going on in the world - on so many fronts - and connecting different folks to explore more radical ideas and catalyse new thinking and work is a great way to bring some positive energy and hope - and hopefully action, too.  The unconference started off wondering whether we actually need more data. We were hosted in a UCL building - very new, packed with 4000+ sensors, but is collecting all this data worthwhile? Even with BMS (building management system) access the occupants couldn't tell how the building works, and so couldn't make good choices around the heating and ventilation controls for instance. It wasn't clear whether

Notes: projects, tech, soil, water

It's always satisfying when projects you have been involved with demonstrate great results: Cofarm is in our third growing season, and starting to think about how best to grow - we're getting quite a lot of interest from people interested in creating Cofarms locally. The tricky bit as usual is having the time (or money) to properly plan how to scale up, and to support potential new sites, and writing up the playbook.  Now Play This 2022 was a lovely hybrid festival of experimental game design exploring play and democracy, and much of it is now on YouTube .  If you missed earlier editions, such as 2021's climate-themed festival, you can catch up on those too.   Working at Field Ready I learned how not all 'maker' (or humanitarian) interventions are helpful - something is not always better than nothing. I was reminded of this by Tarek Loubani's ar

Older notes: translucence and webs and governance

Clearing out old tabs...  Another amazingly thoughtful and insightful article from Rachel Coldicutt: Conley’s framing seems revelatory because care work is often characterised as a bundle of physical acts and emotional feelings, but in reality it involves predicting eventualities, mitigating the mitigatable, and softening the blows of the unavoidable. Care work is the anticipation of grief is a beautiful articulation of care as a thoughtful and a thinking practice; a constant loop of recognising and managing risk. Taking care involves noticing and remembering, writing lists and prioritising; doing the right things in the right order to get to the best outcomes in the circumstance. When I remind my son to put a jumper in his school bag on a sunny day, it’s because I’ve looked at the weather forecast and know it will be colder later. Likewise, when we reply to a government consultation, it’s because we’ve looked at the proposals and know the outcomes will be unjust or unworkable. Both t

Open transitions

I've spent most of the last two years as CTO at the OPEN .  This continued my trend of working with organisations related to 'open,' but confusingly was nothing to do with open at all. OPEN is the Online Progressive Engagement Network, and I think of it as a co-op, although formally it is not. It's a capacity-building and power-building network, funded (in part) by its member organisations, and mostly works behind the scenes. (It was quite a relief not needing to do social/media/event circuit hustle for once!) OPEN's members are each progressive campaign organisations, building mass people-power to create change across multiple issues including human rights, climate change, and so on. They use the internet for scale, and each organisation operates across a whole nation - the "one member per country" rule means OPEN members aren't competing for local funding or membership. (That the organisations are OPEN members, and that they themselves call their sup

Notes: a lot of bits and pieces, plus thinnovation

The 2022 edition of the Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor came out from the New Climate Institute. It sheds light on the differences between well-publicised pledges of 'net zero' from 25 very large companies (which comprise maybe 5% of global emissions).  Thanks to Chris Adams for sharing! We found that the headline pledges of 25 of the world’s largest companies in reality only commit to reduce emissions by 40% on average, not 100% as suggested by the terms “net-zero” and “carbon neutral”. ... The signal sent by the reference to “zero” is a helpful concept, but the “net” can be problematic. Global emissions need to be reduced to net-zero, so companies need to think about how they can completely eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions. Here the concept of “zero” is helpful because it changes the mindset from “marginal reductions and optimisations here and there” to a “full transformation”. The “net” is not helpful if companies start creative accounting just to de

Random notes: crypto / web3 in the 2022 Well state of the world

(part 2 of this ) On to crypto in various forms. Highlights mine. permalink #60 of 340: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 6 Jan 22 10:04     Beyond the environment costs, though, I wonder about the cultural     costs of the rise of gambling 2.0, investment edition. It turns out     that not only any cryptocurrency but any small stock can be     converted into a fun gambling game with a bit of promotion on social     media. The new online casino is anywhere you can attract enough     players to have some fun. permalink #74 of 340: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Thu 6 Jan 22 15:06     Stephen Diehl:.. A world class cryptographer ... If he applied that critical eye to, say, US indebtedness both     personal and Federal, I have no doubt he would have very serious     arguments against that entire system. Same for VISA, SWIFT, and the     rest of the banking, credit cards, and consumer finance system.     Then we could start in on how IPOs work and the stock market in     general.     Then the big