#TEDxBoulder2017

I got to attend my first TEDx Boulder yesterday, it was a good mix of both motivational speakers, those talking about lessons they’ve learned from personal experience, and some professional development speakers on the topic of CLIMATE and CHANGE. Overall an excellent way to spend an afternoon and early evening.

I’ve curated my tweets from the event into a Twitter Moment. If you have any questions, or feedback on the subjects, feel free to leave a comment or email the usual way.

The machines are coming – 2049?

It is notoriously difficult to predict the future. I lived my life at IBM, following Alan Kays 1982 aphorism

The best way to predict the future is to invent it

In my career I got many things right, and many things wrong. While Amazon was still a small time bookseller, and Youtube for the most part didn’t exist, it was obvious both business models would thrive. While I couldn’t convince IBM to pursue either of these opportunities with ny success, we demonstrated the technology perfectly. My “Wired for Life
Presentation contains some of my wins, and many of my losses.

It was much easier to build on these, especially the societal impact in my 2003 “Trends and Directions” presentation.  Societal impact is much easier to predict as you can demographic data, current trends and it’s pretty easy to extrapolate. Technology adoption is much harder.

Many of these predictions are not useful, after all who needs  a robot to write high school essays? Many though will continue to fundementally change work and life as we know it.

What they are though is a signal in the way the World Economic Forum predicts the technology will develop, and to some degree it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Watching this and reading many of the “machines are coming” articles that have been published over the past 5-years, it’s easy to become depressed about the rise of automation, AI, and robots. In a year when the sequel for Blade Runner will finally appear on our screens, there are some key things to remember.

  1. There is no magic, no silver bullet – If they can’t explain it, or worse don’t understand it, they have not invented it. Machine learning is great, but the machines can only learn with the machine learning constraints they have.
  2. Listen to the doubters – Doubt is very different to dismissal. People who dismiss possibility out-of-hand either don’t understand the opportunity and the potential, or are afraid of the change. It’s the doubters who have thought things through and understand the problems and the weaknesses.
  3. Don’t fear automation – If you do, you will be left behind. Learn, adapt, change; if possible work to invent the future By all means be a doubter, don’t be a dismisser.
  4. Find a problem, don’t start with a solution – AI, Robotics, Big Data, Machine Learning, Algorithms, Neural Networks are all speciality fields, grabbing onto them and asking how can we use them isn’t useful. The more specific you can be about a problem that needs solving, the easier it will be to identify the correct technology.
  5. Be Human – the more we automate, the more important human interaction becomes. The more empathy you have for someone who has a problem, the more likely you are to be able to understand how to solve it. Empathy, the arts, sports and human interaction are all fields where robotics and automation are least likely to take over.

More Human than Human – Dr Eldon Tyrell, The Tyrell Corporation

RIP Darkus Howe

Darkus Howe was more Malcom-X than Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t expect most of my American friends have ever heard of him. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s he was the “Devil’s Advocate”.

For me, as far as black civil liberties go, he was the most influential for me. This debate. argument was typical of his style. He died on Saturday.

In The Heart Of Colorado’s Opioid Crisis, This Rural Doctor Is An Army Of One

Overdose deaths in Colorado in general have grown in the last decade, according to the Colorado Health Institute. In 2014, San Luis Valley-area healthcare providers began limiting how opioid drugs are prescribed. But, as High Country News reported, the resulting decline in how often painkillers were prescribed was followed by a surge in heroin use.

Here is a 3rd post in 2-days on the state of Rural America, I listened to this on Colorado Public Radio (CPR) on station KCFR to which I’m an evergreen subscriber.

It is worth stating the obvious, that since rural counties as much more sparsely populated, the numbers per 100,000 can be illustrated much more starkly. A rural county may have only 100,000 or fewer people. It is also worth noting that Colorado is a recreational Cannabis legal state, and this is allegedly under threat from new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. While it’s pretty impossible to die from direct overdose of cannabis, it does cause indirect death through accidents, but the total number of cannabis related deaths is miniscule compared to opioid overdose alone.

The three post illustrate the real problem with rural America, and this one for me explained one way HOW the opioid epidemic has come about.

Skinheads, Mods and youth subculture

In my medium feed at the weekend was a link to a post titled “British skinheads in the 1980s were young, pissed, and stylish as hell“. I scanned through the pictures, read the accompanying text, and see just a very small slither of a culture and a style that I and my friends wouldn’t have been associated with in 1972, and would have rejected. Yeah some of us were involved it fights at Football matches, it was of it’s time.

As I sit here today, my clothes are still inspired and styled by those days, I’m even comfortable with a #1 haircut. While Richard Allens books Skinhead, Suedehead, Boot Boys, Skinhead Escapes, Smoothies, Terrace Terrors, Boot Boys and the final Mod Rule chronicled a generation, it’s unlikely that any single person experienced more that a few of the fictionalised events as youth culture was moving too fast.

Where I grew up in Hemel Hempstead we were almost exclusively white, and with London our nearest big city which had been hugely multicultural, for hundreds of years, racism just wasn’t a thing. So the toxic, hatred filled skinhead imagery of the 1970’s – 80’s just doesn’t ring true for me.

There are a few interesting videos online, two of the best by Don Letts. Letts was the DJ at the Roxy Club and before that, Chaguaramas, and we were there on New Years Eve 40-years ago at the Clash gig, we walked out, our time had passed. Letts films, especially the story of Skinhead, and it’s predecessor, the Fred Perry Sponsored, Subculture of British Music and Street Style take a serious look at the genre. I’d love the chance to talk to Don one day.