Category Archives: education technology

Digital Tourettes

What a joy and how peculiar are the serendipitous errors of predictive texting!

Boris bike becomes virus bike, my cube becomes my vine, etc.

Who is communicating with whom here?   Are our devices becoming ineptly articulate beneath our very fingers?

Are they in fact emerging with a kind of half-learned Tourettes syndrome, from an algorithmic, primordial swamp to roar incoherently in the background of our misspelt, misread communications?

“Swing by my vine on your virus bike and can ketchup on earth thing”.

 We start to question whether what we intended to write in the first place is as good as the word the predictive text system thought we had mistyped.  We start to wonder whether the digital Tourettes offering isn’t in some strange way more poetic, more suggestive than what our banal brains had initially inserted.

We’re in danger of becoming over-sensitised to the mistakes of language that our mechanical failings engender.  We might almost begin to wonder whether these machine interventions might have a superior, almost spiritual dimension beyond their dumb machine origins.   These are no longer mere typos, but ontological dilemmas which go deep into the very wiring of our brains and the coding of our algorithms.

This is how we become linguistically more enmeshed in our technologies, just as we are becoming more physically enmeshed in the web, our apps and our devices.  Of course the military already has applications so that soldiers get  to kill people remotely using networked devices.  Hopefully we can start to use drones and robots to live more positively too.  What intrigues me is not so much the big immersive experiences but the more subtle enmeshing.  There is an emerging vision of a human prostheticised,  life extended  through artificial components inserted into our bodies, remotely monitored or even remotely controlled. This is no longer science fiction, it’s already normal and accepted.  I’m lucky enough to have my father still with us due to phenomenal non-invasive heart surgery.  As far as I know, his new heart valve is neither remotely monitored nor controlled, but that’s not for lack of available technology. The site of runners in marathons with foot or leg prosthetics is now commonplace, however much it still commands our respect.

So when the tech starts to offer us, plausible alternative views through our digital camera implants, compared to what our eyes naturally see, and our verbal choices start to be influenced by our predictive speech algorithms to make us appear more articulate, what will we end up seeing and saying about our world? And who or what will determine our word choices then?

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Why are the Angry Birds – angry?

So Angry Birds is the smash of the year. The surprise game that has become a meme and catapulted (sorry) its makers Rovio to fame, fortune and a frenzy of merchandising and motion picture tie-ins.

But why are the birds angry?  While we were in Tallinn last week at the Creative Hotspots event and economist Neil McEnroy of Manchester’s Centre for Local Economic Studies was probing the inner recesses of the creative industries, this was one of the questions that burned deepest in my mind.

Just why are the Angry Birds angry?

Is it that humankind has wrecked the environment and that now, as a form of punishment, we have to use the birds to wreck our own buildings in order to restore the natural balance?

Is it that the makers of the game would have made planes not birds but that this was not absurd enough and looked too much like 9/11? It seems unlikely that Angry Planes,  a game where you catapult planes into buildings to see how efficiently you can knock them down would be quite as popular as Angry Birds. But in one of the Angry Birds night scenes, the birds do have these light tracers that seem more redolent of missiles than birds…

Or is this some kind of weird tribute to Hitchcock’s the Birds? Is this  (like the Danish cartoons last year) another one of those offbeat and slightly weird Nordic cultural satires? Only sitting long nights in saunas in log cabins makes these things comprehensible apparently.  Has anyone spotted a Hitchcockian cameo appearance of the great director himself yet in any of the Angry Birds scenes?

Tallinn – the Baltic Tech Hub

Last week, I had the great pleasure of giving a keynote address in Tallinn, Estonia during the Creative Hotspots conference. The event was organised by the British Council.  You can catch the video of my presentation here and the others including the fabulous Jenny Tooth of the Angel Capital Group, the dynamic Elizabeth Varley from Shoreditch’s Tech Hub.  a visionary from Skype and a founder of Angry Birds creators Rovio.  The event, organised by the Brits brought together, Finns, Swedes, Russian, Germans, Poles, Brits and Estonians – who would have thought it?

Tallinn is an extraordinary town, picturesque with its medieval centre and still lots of snow on the ground, but also boasts a bit of a tech hub including a NATO cyber warfare research unit – borne out of its recent history and mentioned in the Economist last week.

On the Friday morning, the President of Estonia came along to open Tallinn Music Week  (TMW) and talked with great passion in Estonian about Alvo Part – the greatest Estonian composer. But then talked at great length about how he had discovered Arcade Fire a few years ago and thought for the longest time that he was alone in all Estonia to know about this band. Until he read a review by Helen Sildna – the amazingly dynamic woman who organises TMW. He sent her an email telling her this,  but she thought it was a fake and ignored it. There’s a moral in there some where.

Maybe one day, every country will have a President who loves the music of some hip alternative act from a foreign country and then will come and open an international music event, and talk about them,  in a casual, low key kind of way.

Quotable quotes from TED Global 2010

“Power is no longer a zero sum game”  Joseph Nye

“I’ll simplify a lot of tasks you never had to do before” Patrick Chapatte on Steve Jobs

“The slow hunch – great ideas fade into view over long periods of time” Steven Berlin Johnson

“Re-implement biology but inorganically, so we can grow technology like an organism” Neil Gershenfeld

“Businesses today are built on how you add value not on how you control limited information” Neil Gershenfeld

“Telling me your goal makes it less likely to happen because the mind mistakes the telling for the doing” Derek Sivers

“In order to do good, you have to do something.” Emily Pilloton

“My subject is food, which concerns everyone, it is health which concerns everyone, it is soil which concerns everyone, although they may not know it” Lady Eve Balfour, 1946 quoted by Adrian Dolby

“Personal debt has grown massively because people buy things they don’t want, to create impressions that don’t last on people they don’t care about.” Tim Jackson

“Don’t let life de-genius you.” Buckminster Fuller

“A teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be!” Arthur C Clarke quoted by Sugata Mitra

“The average cat in Europe has a larger carbon footprint than the average African” Jason Clay

“You cannot wake up a person who is pretending to sleep” Jason Clay

“Images with straight lines in them create a sense of fear in the brain” Alex Kelleher

“Schizophonia – a dislocation between what you see and what you hear” Julian Treasure

“Extracting ice for analysis from Antarctica – each cylinder is a parfait of time” Lee Hotz

“Have a cup of coffee, act fierce and keep on dancing” Andrea Lucard

“If you meet the expectations of women, you exceed the expectations of men” Marti Baletta

Quotes from TED Global 2009 – Oxford, England

spreading ideas worth spreading

quotes from speakers at TED Global

“Globalisation will lead to a new Renaissance, a huge opportunity for innovation. But there are also two huge problems. Firstly, those who are left out and excluded. Secondly, managing growing complexity which leads to systemic shock (eg current recession, swine-fever, etc).” Ian Goldin

“Afghanstar, Poet of the Millions, the unintended consequences of Britain’s got Talent, in Asia and the Middle East, Reality TV is driving reality.” Cynthia Schneider

“Sound can be like a bowl of spaghetti,  sometimes you just have to eat it and see what happens.” Julian Treasure

“Regret factors associated with cyber warfare threat could be equivalent to weapons of mass destruction.” Guy-Philippe Goldstein quoting US military

“It is better to be sometimes cheated, than not to trust.” Samuel Johnson quoted by Susan Kish

“Today, the information monopoly is broken, so brands need to find a place for themselves in this swirling mimetic environment.” Andy Hobsbawn

“The pain of psychological death + the pleasure of beating yourself = hunger in paradise.” Rasmus Ankersen

“The opposite of snobbery is your mother.” Alain de Bothon

“The trouble with our meritocracy is that in the 21st Century people own their own success, but they also own their own failure.” Alain de Bothon

“Obsession made my life worse and my work better.” artist quoted by Stefan Sagmeister

“Super massive black holes represent the breakdown of our understanding of the physical universe.” Andrea Ghez

“I found a dead fly and plucked a hair off its head to make a paint brush. I would never do that to a live insect.” William Wigan, micro sculptor

“Mirrors would do well to reflect a little longer before sending back images.” James Geary quoting Jean Cocteau

“In Mexico, the Indians played music to stay in touch with their ancestors, but in Africa they play to stay as far from the grave as possible.” Mark Johnson

“The internet can be characterised as random acts of kindness by geeky strangers.” Jonathan Zittrain

“Work places and institutions are preventing our efforts to use technology to create greater intimacy between ourselves.” Stefana Broadbent

“What’s wrong with placebo’s? They have very few side effects and most of those are purely imaginary.” Rory Sutherland

“As an adman, I think of saving as consumerism needlessly postponed.” Rory Sutherland

“Bio-diversity is collapsing, mass extinction is taking place in our fiels without anyone noticing. You don’t look a corn seed in the eye, as you might a panda bear, but we still need seedbanks.” Cory Fowler

“Leaving something unfinished makes it incomplete and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth.” 14th Century Japanese essay on idleness quoted by Marcus Du Santoy

“Some stars have swallowed their planets.” Garik Israelian

“People could stroll and get their learn on. People could come to this sidewalk garden and chillax.” Candy Chang

“What do scientists do if paradigms fail? They carry on as nothing had happened, saying yes I know it’s wrong, but if it were right…?” Elaine Morgan

“African students study under streetlights at the aiport because they have no electricity at home.” Paul Romer

“3% of arable land is taken up by the world’s current cities inhabited by 3bn people.” Paul Romer

“80% of traded food is controlled by 5 multinational companies.” Carolyn Steel

“40 cities represent 90% of the world’s wealth.” Parag Khanna

“Dry areas cover over 1/3rd of the earth’s surface.” Magnus Larsson

“In India, 62% of all injections given are unsafe.” Mark Koska

“90% of the feature requests for features in Word – are already in Word.” Aza Raskin

“Organised crime represents 15% of global GDP.” Misha Glenny

“40bn batteries are disposed of every year.” Eric Giler

“Only 3% of GDP is invested in technology R&D annually” Geoff Mulgan

“Life is a series of things you’re not quite ready for.” Rob Hopkins

“Design is a priesthood wearing black polo neck sweaters and designer glasses. Design is too important to be left to designers.” Tim Brown

“I wanted to know what had turned my best friend into a terrorist and why she had not tried to recruit me.” Lorreta Napoleoni

“The music makes my therapy, I have no advisor, no one to talk to, music helps my imagination.” Emmanuel Jal

“To change the world, using no resources, use music.” Ross Lovegrove

“Tritium is bred from lithium, using the neutron.” Steve Cowley

“In ballooning we understand that winds, at different altitudes,  blow in different directions. So in life, if we want to change direction, we need to reach different levels and to do this we have to throw things overboard, we have to get rid of a lot of ballast, certainties, dogmas, paradigms.” Bertrand Piccard

“The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” Winston Churchill quoted by Richard Bernstein

“Always take ‘no’ as a question not an answer.” aphorism quoted by Geoff Mulgan

“We are here on earth to help others, what on earth the other are here for I have no idea.” John Lloyd quoting W H Auden

“Ice is the canary in the global coal mine.” James Balog

“If we refuse a single story and know that there are many stories, then we regain a kind of paradise.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Roman military expeditions were just one long shopping spree really.” Carolyn Steel

“Architecture is retrofitting the world to our needs.” Bjarke Ingels

“There is a severe mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” Daniel Pink

“The musical work is in your head, conductors are building the roller coaster with sound as the orchestra plays.” Itay Talgam

“We are doing nothing, because we want to see what is the inner point of all the difference.”  Brother Paulus Terwitte

Quotes from CISAC Copyright Summit 2009, Washington DC

“The degradation of the quality image is the only thing I fear from the digital age.” (Frank Stella, artist)

Frank Stella

“How do you value consciousness?” (Frank Stella)

“Artists are lazy but they are capable of being mobilized. But they won’t organise around financial things but more about moral protests and causes.” (Frank Stella)

Paul williams

“In 1967, I turned up at A&M Music in a stolen car. I looked like a kid until you put me next to a real kid. Then I looked like a kid with a hangover.” (Paul Williams, songwriter)


milos

“The Internet is like a supermarket shopping bag with all the things in it for free too.” (Milos Forman, film director)

Richard Feynman – the orange juice song

Sometimes you have to just let go –  sit down on that back step and start talking in tongues or singing with drums or whatever it is that you feel the need to do – just to let that precious brain relax awhile.

Boing Boing just highlighted this fab extract from a great documentary on the legendary scientist and eccentric Richard Feynman. I was inspired by his song to encourage my children to drink orange juice (fortunately no video of my orange-juice remix has been preserved) –  you can use it to let it take you to whatever destination you choose! In Feynman’s words it’s Tuva or Bust! Enjoy!