We own the sky

I suspect everybody has it, “that place”, for lack of a better word. But its not a real place, you won’t find it on Google maps…and you’d probably get lost if you tried. On certain days, that place seems so far away, like a vague recollection of a dream.                                                                                                                                 But once I find it again, or more accurately stumble upon it again, it feels like its always been there waiting for me ,silently, patiently until i finally settled down.

The place that i am talking about is somewhere in your consciences and in mine. Sadly, I can’t give you any clear direction to it, if i did it would be something vague like: ” its in the same street as contemplation near melancholy, and close to insight but really far away from solitude and self-doubt”.                                  And even if i did give you silly instructions like that, you would not be able to reach it with your mind….. its more of a Trust thing…and well Trust thats just an entirely different kind of silly.

Fortunately, sometimes i get transported to that place without having to do anything and  i guess the same goes for other people as well, For me that way is listing to music. In those 5 minutes and 16 seconds it seems like i own that place and I can’t  imagine being anywhere else, but that place slips away bit by bit every-time  i hit ‘re-play’.
Recently is started to wonder what it would be like, if i had access to that place 24/7, not fading away, but always “ON” in full IMAX and in high definition. Would i still be the same person? Would you? What about our limitations, would we still have them? Would we even know what a limitation meant in that state? Or would we start looking upwards and come to the inevitable conclusion that now, we own the sky?

Capitalism 2.0 – upgraded for long-term thinking

We need a revolution of the social system!?  This is a sentiment that is often  expressed (either implicit or explicit) over the net, its a nice idea but  I have trouble believing that capitalism can be replaced by a better and more just system. Not because I believe capitalism is the best system we have but because its the only social economic system that has survived for the last 60 to 70 years, This is remarkable since major social economic systems like communism and socialism, have either collapsed or succumb to a capitalistic hybrid.

And I think Capitalism continuous survival goes much deeper than simple economics,  I did my bachelor thesis on Joseph Schumpeter, who coined the terms: entrepreneurship, innovation and creative destruction for the first time,  and he has a very interesting view on social economic systems. He beliefs they are evolutionary by nature instead of static.   But he makes another interesting point, that a social system can only survive as long as the people in that system identify themselves to the system, once that identification is cut than we, as people, want a change in the system but that change isn’t a revolution but and evolution of the system, Capitalism 2.0. The reason why he does not belief in a real revolutions is because we, the people, are also formed by the social system and we dictate the speed of  the evolution by our human attitude towards the system.

This has some far reaching implications, Schumpeter was heavily influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution and the parallels to organisms and social economic systems are unmistakeable. One of these parallels is that an organism cannot revolutionize itself  from one generation to the next, change takes time. We do not belief that that a fish could changed into a fully functioning bird in one generation, so why do we belief this is possible for a social economic system?  It takes time to develop the necessary anatomy, but much more importantly for our discussion, it takes time for the creature to understand how it can express itself through its new anatomy. Similarly a social system cannot change from capitalism to a social system overnight and be able to survive in the long run. Off course its possible to change the laws and economics from one month to the next (= its anatomy) history has show that revolutions happen, but our human attitude needs more time to change and adapt, this is were the fallacy lies.

The problem that I have with articles and opinions that want a revolution of the social economic system is not that I wouldn’t want it to happen. But that we cannot radically change our social economic system and expect our attitudes towards the system to magically change with it. Human attitudes needs time to change and this change is much more fundamental than we like to admit and ignoring this is dangerous and more importantly, unnecessary.

Our attitude towards our social economic system can be summed up as follows:

-to express our individuality through our innate talent and/or skill in our social economic system  and by these means acquire wealth for ourself and our family.

There are two key concepts here:

1) expressing our  individuality: we all want to be recognized for our work, no matter what your profession, we want to feel that we matter and are respected for it. A revolution to a more socialist system would likely mean that this part of us would be downplayed for the social good and this will be problematic in the long run.

2) acquisition of Wealth: We have been taught since childhood to acquire wealth, either a lot of wealth or simply enough wealth to lead a comfortable live. This is so ingrained that most people would simple be at a loss, if they would wake up one morning in a system that has no apparent ‘wealth incentive’.

Now it is no secret that the crisis we have in our current social economic system is the result of our short term thinking, we have a system that actively promotes short term thinking to the absurd. And this was ‘fine’ until we started reaching the limits of what earth can handle.  From then on we started to experience the effects of our action first hand. We tried to deny it at first but now that we use the word crisis so much on a daily basis, that denial is starting to give way to acceptance and a demand for change.

We have started to see the importance of long term thinking and want our social system to reflect that evolution of thought but at the same time our attitude towards our social economic system is much slower to change, its as if we want the problems to go away by changing from a fish to a bird in one single generation. I think that is the wrong approach,  we should cherish our  ability to express our own individuality and the acquisition of wealth, because they are the drivers of our current capitalism and more importantly they aren’t the cause of the of current problems, our short term thinking is.

In the past we equated wealth with money, wealth=money, so as a result we set up entrepreneurial enterprises or specialized our skills to acquire more money and our social economic system is great in achieving this in a short period of time. However, the problems it creates have now reached a critical point that the enjoyment of our wealth is threatened, for example: too much air pollution due to our cars, trucks and planes have made strolling the streets unbearably and in some cities a health risk, We have depleted the fish populations to such an extent that we have to make due with farmed fish which is far less tasty, we have spoiled our country side by wast and illegal duping and our beaches have become garbage collecting units whereby the coral is dying fast,  making diving less of an experience. There are numerous other examples to be used here, our short term thinking has in effect limited our ability to enjoy our money in the form of recreation and the simple pleasures of life.

I believe that in the long term thinking we will equate wealth with freedom , wealth=freedom, freedom is the ability to experience life without the restrictions we have been exposed to due to our short term thinking. In effect we want to solve the problems we have created the last 60 years and make sure that we are never faced with the same problems ever again, this is essentially the change (or evolution) we as a people want to see in our social economic system.

In a similar fashion our expression of our individuality is changing. In the (recent) past bankers and stock brokers were considered to be the epitome of success, so much so that people wanted to expressed their individuality by becoming part of that group. Now our ability to experience life has been so restricted by our short term thinking that our society has started to see ‘social’ innovators as the new epitome of prestige.To put it differently, we are starting  to give more prestige to an innovator who solves our (local) energy problem than to the  energy executive that currently provides it to us. We are changing our value system and our expression of individuality and acquisition of wealth changes with it, this is Capitalism 2.0.

The Steve Jobs school – a cunning marketing strategy.

In Amsterdam on 26th of march a group of entrepreneurs and educators lead by the Maurice de Hond, a long-time entrepreneur and owner of  a Dutch opinion poll company by the same name, held a press conference on the future of primary education. This is remarkable for two reasons 1) a  press conferences on primary education is  rare. 2) if there is a press conference on primary education chances are slim that it would get mainstream media attention.

What could have prompted this unusual responds? The media connections of  Maurice de Hond?, The schools manifesto  (English), which focusses on the ability of the child and less on the state obligated learning objectives? Or the fact that they called it ‘the Steve Jobs school’ or as some in the media  have dubbed it  ‘the Ipad school’?

I will come back to this question later on, but first some more details: the first school will open its doors beginning of August 2013 (!!) and the city council of Amsterdam has already agreed to provide the location(s). Other cities are being actively approached and in the meantime young parents as well as educators who are interested can sign up on the website, http://www.o4nt.nl , which in English translates to ‘education for a new era’. Non-parents and non-educators can participate as well.

Now most of the buzz has been centred around the question if it is wise to focus our educational system on a single device and brand, the Apple evangelists are mildly sceptical but for the most part think its a good move (they are called evangelists for a reason, I guess).  While most progressive  educators are seriously wondering how a bunch of Apps are going to be translated into a full educational curriculum (which seems like a fair point to raise). While the majority of the educators greeted the initiative with down-right cynicism (the irony here is that secretly this group yearns to see change the most).

I find the question of the progressive educators the most important so lets start there. 1) Let me be blunt by saying ‘Ipad’s in schools are not a good  idea’, by locking our educational IT environment into proprietary systems that are market driven you loose control, moreover you will  also create an unhealthy dependency (=legacy issues) on a corporate company which will always succumb to corporate greed, if they haven’t done so already, no offence to Apple its simply the nature of the Beast.

2) There has been a product on the market which has existed much longer than the Ipad and has been specifically designed with primary education in mind. A product that has proven itself in the harshest educational conditions in third world countries , the name of this product is the XO and its produced by OLPC.  This is a non-profit company so that limits the greed factor inherent to capitalism and it is an open-source platform,LINUX. I am not saying the XO is perfect but it’s a whole lot better suited for the task than the Ipad, since the XO is designed from the bottom-up to suit the anatomy of youngster.

The second gen XO laptop

Plus the new XO (see bellow) is much cheaper (+- 150 dollars but you have to buy in bulk) so the elitism of the Ipad is removed and it is the first ever table that OLPC has designed and like all XO’s the battery can be charged by a whole array of renewable sources solar, pedal as well as regular charging by USB and it can be maintained and fixed by the educators themselves with the proper training (so less service maintenance drama’s). I could go on to state the case why XO is better than the Ipad but I think you get the picture and sooner or later so will the masses.

Knowing all this, one question kept bugging me ever since the unveiling of this initiative: ‘why would an intelligent, savvy ,even shrewd, entrepreneur like Maurice de Hond make such a fuzz about an Ipad school when there clearly are better alternatives available?’

This question links back to the first question on why this initiative prompted so much response in the first place.

I belief that this is a brilliant marketing move from Maurice de Hond, I don’t belief this initiative is really focussed on the Ipad at all. Its focussed on reaching a better educational standard in Holland. In the process Maurice de Hond is using the Ipad and ‘the Steve Jobs school’  as a marketing tool. Everybody knows Steve Jobs and everybody has seen an Ipad. So instead of having to explain to people what needs to change in our educational system, which is technical and frankly rather boring. Maurice de Hond uses peoples (un)conscience idea’s about the Ipad and the Apple’s famous lifestyle marketing campaigns to propel a new educational concept into the collective conscience of the Dutch masses, its basically an inception but more crude and on a collective scale. As a result you now have soccer mom’s and yuppie dad’s talking about how they would like their children to go to a ‘the Steve jobs school’  because it will prepare them better for the technology of tomorrow.

My hypothesis  is reinforced by the following: 1) Maurice de Hond owns a survey poll company so he knows with a fair amount of detail “why” we are unhappy about our educational system, moreover the recently announced budget cuts by the government are only making this unhappiness more prevalent in the collective (un)conscience. 2) He knows how politicians think, Lodewijk Asscher is in charge of education for the city of  Amsterdam and he can use this initiative in order to further his political career on state, national or European level. 3) The official name of the initiative is  ‘education for a new era’  no official reference is made to Apple or Steve Jobs not on this level. So the whole initiative is not locked into the Apple mechanism and if it seems that the cooperation with Apple isn’t working out they can simple drop the name, their main objective of mass inception has already been achieved by then.

I suspect that eventually the progressive educators will step into the limelight and will start discussing in forums and communities  how they see the new school taking shape and probable start understating the Apple aspect.  But for now the buzz of  ‘the Steve Jobs school’ is necessary and at the same time a very cunning  marketing strategy.

Local funding in real life.

The gap between theory and reality can be pretty wide and deep. Especially if it is your faith, like mine,  to live on that razors edge of dreams and economics.

A while back I proposed  the idea, that a combination of crowd sourcing/design thinking/crowd funding could help to develop projects that benefit the locals and are funded by the locals.

Here is a real life example of a local architect and a local entrepreneur who wanted to build an underground park, yes you read it correctly an underground park…..but that’s not where the story ends, the local community believes so much in this project  that they decided to fund it themselves.  I will leave the technical details for you to explore in the link bellow, but as a reference they still have 8 days on the clock and are already 50+ % above target.

You may wonder why I am such a strong supporter for social funding, let me explain it without the abstractions and the jargon:

Imagine that you are walking through this park with a local person as your tour-guide, sooner or later you will hear this phrase pass his lips: “Our community made this park happen… for us…..and for the generations to come” , and as you notice the twinkling in his eyes you realize that it wasn’t due to the sunlight from above but the pride from within. That reaction of empowerment is social funding to me.

Now back to reality, yes that persistent and all-encompassing reality which you  can’t avoid……..but you are able to hack it! Therefore the most obvious question is: “how do you get natural sunlight into an underground park?”  The hack has elegance, but I will let you find it out for yourself, its cooler that way LowLine.

Crowd funded journalism

I assume that everybody at one point or another, has wondered why certain “news” is… well… news. Shouldn’t  newsworthiness be more constant?  And what about  following important news subjects  to the end,i mean has global warming been fixed ?!  Was it just me who didn’t get that memo and what story is big enough to bump something like that anyway!?  How are we suppose to fix things great and small if the focus keeps changes? Who is to blame for  this  ‘news schizophrenia’  which creates a perpetual state of mild confusion  at best and a  persistent unconscious anxiety at worst?!.

All ranting aside, this is a problem and apparently there are some people who seem determined to fix it, at least a part of it, so much so that they launched a kick starter project for a new long-form journalism magazine called “MATTER”.

The crowd support for MATTER has been phenomenally successful, the initial goal was 50K, while at the time of writing  the counter is on 124K ( and still 8 days left). Obviously the message resonated with people. The magazine wants to  focus on subjects that are important and therefore demand more time and dedication than regular magazines can afford. Most of the revenue for this long-form journalism will be on  pay per view scheme with a standard fee of  0.99 dollar per article.

But this method of crowd funded journalism is not without its critics, out of the blogosphere there has been substantial critic on the longevity of a magazine being funded in this manner. I belief some points are valid but I feel that the staggering amount of crowd funded capital is not getting its due credit, crowd funding is the closes to ‘democratizing demand’  as we are able to get, instead of market research firms and/or product marketeers who push products onto the market assuming consumers will purchase it,the crowd can now  pull  products into the market, products they wish to have. This is significant not only from a consumer empowerment perspective but also from an ecological perspective,less unneeded products being produced, also read Don Lehman ‘s excellent article on the subject.

There are several hurdles that MATTER needs to successfully overcome in the coming future, but the crowd has given its stamp of approval and that should count for more than it does now.

human genome – when science catches up with science fiction

Hi,

Gattaca is a film written and directed by Andrew Niccol, it tells the story of a not to distant future where the human race is obsessed with the human genome.  Crudely said, your genome determines you standing in life, the better your genome the better your career options and vice versa.

The film itself is intimate and engaging  Andre Niccol’s characters are believable and well acted and accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack that glides you through the film. But I always considered the story to be a metaphor to our society, that human spirit should not, and in this case cannot, be stifled by a rigid system. I never considered the possibility that the story could be an early warning  for a realistic future.

Until recently mapping the human genome was a long and difficult process, which made it very expensive. Consequently, very few people on the planet could say that they “know their genome”, making the pro’s and con’s discussions about human genome, really not that relevant.

But times are changing, and exceedingly fast it seems. There are several genome sequencing companies active at the moment, navigenetics, 23andme and decodeme. That offer to sequence your genome,  for varying prices of 200 to 1100 dollars, the difference in price seems to depend on how much you want to know about yourself.

This puts genome sequencing in the hands of the common man and this lowering of the threshold will help fill the data bases of the genome companies with the potential to mine the data, for better or worse. However, Gattaca does not have to become reality, says Lone frank, a science writer and author of the book “my beautiful genome”.


Only time will tell if humanity is mature enough to use this technology for the greater good. However, one thing is clear, human genome sequencing is going to become a fact of daily life  for everyone within the next 5 to 10 years, its simple a matter of time before the sequencing machines are economical enough to sit in your  doctor’s office.

3d printed panoramic ball camera

Hi,

Simple solutions to hard problems always fascinate me, elegance rules. Panoramic camera’s have been around for a while but the quality has been a little lacking and honestly it never was 360 degrees, the top and bottom were often missing.That is why Jonas Pfeil solution is so interesting. Now the title of Jonas Pfeil final university thesis  is ‘Throw able Camera Array for Capturing Spherical Panoramas’, ‘throw able camera’ seems like a strange string of words,  like ‘ throw able glass’  or ‘dispensable babies’ , but anyway out of this, the panoramic ball camera was born.

The ball consists of 36 camera of 2 megapixel mobile phone camera’s, they are fixed by a 3D printed skeleton, which is so intrinsically made that it seems to be the best manufacturing method for the job. see here for further information.

The throw ball is an elegant solutions for 3 reasons  1) the pictures are taken at the high point of the throw where it is the most still, now by taking the picture at that moment the ghosting or blurring of people/cars/animals that occurs due to movement, is radically reduced 2)  the ball is not mounted on a ‘tripod’ or other device, that means that this camera can make pictures of the ground as well as the sky, making its pictures true 360 degree panoramic.3) you throw a ball into the air…it really doesn’t get much simpler than that.

This isn’t a tool that you use to get pristine pictures of undisturbed landscapes or for the interior of houses that are up for sale, more for city trips or outdoors activities, since you’ll always see the person who threw the ball. But all in all its an elegant  and fun solution for a complex problem.

You cannot buy this product yet, Jonas Pfeil has patent(s) on the camera so chances are that it will be available in the near future.