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How To Get There 19/01/20

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, January 19th, 2020 - 28 comments
Categories: Deep stuff - Tags:


This post is a place for positive discussion of the future.

An Open Mike for ideas, solutions and the discussion of the possible.

The Big Picture, rather than a snapshot of the day’s goings on. Topics rather than topical.

We’d like to think it’s success will be measured in the quality of comments rather than the quantity.

So have at it!

Let us know what you think …

28 comments on “How To Get There 19/01/20”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    "Saxe pithily calls for redirecting some of our energy toward building “excellent dumb cities.” She’s not anti-technology, it’s just that she thinks smart cities may be unnecessary. “For many of our challenges, we don’t need new technologies or new ideas; we need the will, foresight and courage to use the best of the old ideas,” she says."




    “It is eminently possible to weave ancient knowledge of how to live symbiotically with nature into how we shape the cities of the future, before this wisdom is lost forever. We can rewild our urban landscapes, and apply low-tech ecological solutions to drainage, wastewater processing, flood survival, local agriculture and pollution that have worked for indigenous peoples for thousands of years, with no need for electronic sensors, computer servers or extra IT support.”

    • Sacha 1.1

      Smart cities do strike me as a solution dreamed up by people who sell sensor networks. Useful for some things and for applying to existing cities with very limited basic options for transformation, perhaps.

    • RedLogix 1.2

      Alexander's seminal work A Pattern Language remains for me the preeminent vision of organic architecture. There was very little tech in his book at all, although admittedly Alexander was writing in an era where energy and tech possibilities were relatively constrained. There may well be a place for them he didn't foresee. 

      My objection however is simple, their potential to be subverted for ubiquitous surveillance and population control via AI as the CCP is already investing heavily in.

      • Dennis Frank 1.2.1

        “We have been trained to think of patterns, with the exception of those of music, as fixed affairs. It is easier and lazier that way but, of course, all nonsense. In truth, the right way to begin to think about the pattern which connects is to think of it as primarily (whatever that means) a dance of interacting parts and only secondarily pegged down by various sorts of physical limits and by those limits which organisms characteristically impose.”
        ― Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature

      • Molly 1.2.2

        Also have a Pattern Language, and currently working (sporadically) on our home, and taking time to consider the use/re-use of materials.  While dismantling and reassembling a century old house, have developed a real admiration for those that put our home together.  Simple materials, used in multiple instances which resulted in a building that withstood weather and living for one hundred years.  

        An example of a simple flashing system that worked: windows mostly same height inset into the barge board and covered with a flat metal flashing that was held in place (and made watertight) by the moulding between the eaves and the weatherboard.  Tongue and groove offcuts nailed into studs to provide strong fixing platforms for electrical switches, lights and sockets.  When the builders were here getting the place ready for a new roof, it seemed every second task had a specific individual product. 

        On the weekend, came across this book about low-tech solutions, which looks interesting: Julia Watson: Lo-Tek.  A few years ago I saw a documentary which seems similar in perspective, but unfortunately I can't recall the name of it.

    • Dennis Frank 1.3

      I'd feel more comfortable in a low-tech habitat.  Well, in principle.  In practice, high-tech is part of my chosen lifestyle.  Both/and logic, I guess.

      You can't hard-wire a metapattern.  "My central thesis can now be approached in words: The pattern which connects is a metapattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that metapattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns which connect."

      Non-local communities did exist prior to the internet.  They just weren't seen as such.  People chose to be part of national or international associations because of shared aspirations, like-mindedness, common values, etc.  You can see the network in each case, but the metapattern connecting members operates in the tacit part of the psyche.

      Now that civilisation is devolving into tribalism, smart tech in cities may seem irrelevant – or even become a problem.  Immigrants huddle in co-created enclaves and ghettos, so as to preserve cultural sanctity and evade assimilation.  That breeds intolerance and hostility, of course, and smart tech could get used to coordinate a host response.  If, instead, immigrants could be persuaded to create common ground with the host nation, the metapattern would kick in, connecting them to the social matrix.

      • Sacha 1.3.1

        No innate reason that smart tech can't be controlled by smaller communities. The cost is plummeting.

        • Dennis Frank

          In principle, that makes sense.  In practice, chances are that the in-crowd/out-crowd divide will kick in.  Gate-keepers will seek to ensure the sanctity of archaic culture by preventing the intercultural mingling that will assimilate immigrants.  I predict they will use communal smart tech to produce a result that is not smart.

      • Dennis Frank 1.3.2

        Sorry, I forgot the link for the immortal words of Gregory Bateson (must've been an elderly moment):  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metapattern

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    "Any of the plausible scenarios for disaster, like unchecked climate change, will involve billions of survivors. We will find ourselves in large groups, in rapidly changing situations, and we will have to negotiate that. We will not escape the messiness of contemporary society. Any post-apocalyptic reality will not be a time machine to a mythical past we long for. It will not be a simpler, uncluttered life. We will not be able to run away. We will have to stay and fix things, and if we succeed, we may not recognize ourselves.

    While the wilderness survival skills certainly can’t hurt, it will be empathy, generosity, and courage that we need to survive. Kindness and fairness will be more valuable than any survival skill. Then as now, social and leadership skills will be valued. We will have to work together. We will have to grow food, educate ourselves, and give people a reason to persevere. The needs will be enormous, and we cannot run away from that. Humans evolved attributes such as generosity, altruism, and cooperation because we need them to survive. Armed with those skills, we will turn towards the problem, not away from it. We will face the need, and we will have to solve it together. That is the only option. That’s what survival looks like."


  3. Dennis Frank 3

    "Crossbench members of the British House of Lords are not aligned to any particular party…  An "increasing number" of crossbenchers have been created peers for non-political reasons. Since its establishment in May 2000, the House of Lords Appointments Commission has nominated a total of 67 non-party-political life peers who joined the House of Lords as crossbenchers.  There are currently 187 crossbenchers, composing approximately 24% of the sitting members in the House of Lords and making them the third largest parliamentary group after the Conservative and Labour parties."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossbencher

    So there's a solution to bipartisan toxicity, and even British aristocrats have figured it out!  One of this tribe is Baron Browne of Madingley.  "Since 2001, he has been a crossbench member of the House of Lords."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Browne,_Baron_Browne_of_Madingley

    He was CEO of BP from 1995 till 2007:  "Lord Browne is said to be the first openly gay CEO of any Fortune 500 company."  Author of five books, including  Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilisation (May 2019) – from which I will quote:

    "In 2008 an enigmatic programmer (or group of programmers), working under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, published a technical paper on an online cryptography bulletin board.  In it, he described the workings of the blockchain, and his plans for its first implementation:  a new digital currency called Bitcoin.  The system would automate the process of recording and verifying financial transactions, without the involvement of a bank or any other intermediary."

    For someone to come up with a viable path to the future by replacing capitalism with a better system is fairly unusual.  Particularly when that system works!

    "Transactions would only be approved when every computer in a network of hundreds or thousands of machines received formal proof of their authenticity.  Discrete blocks of transactions would then be saved on every computer in the network and cryptologically sealed'.  If anyone attempted to manipulate the record of transactions, the cryptographic key would no longer work, and because the encryption applied to each block depended on  the previous block, they would be linked in a chain.  Any attempt to change, copy, or deleted past records would disrupt the entire blockchain, immediately exposing any interference.  Thanks to these properties, blockchains would be safe, distributed ledgers.  In January 2009, Nakamotu laid the first block in the first ever blockchain.  He improved his system over the two years that followed but then, just as his project was gathering momentum, he disappeared."

    A smart career move!!  You can imagine how the owner/operators of the capitalist system felt about the prospect of being made redundant.  They would have already sent out several teams of assassins to hunt down the inscrutable oriental.

    Enough time has passed to review the historical impact of this new technology:  "it allows people who do not know each other and have no reason to trust each other to create a robust and mutually satisfying record of ownership and obligation.  For the first time, people can do this without relying on the trustworthiness of a bank, government, or some other arbitrator."

    "At a recent meeting in Washington DC, impact investor Andy Karsner proclaimed that `Blockchain is as significant as the Internet'.  However, Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet, is not so convinced…  Cerf thinks that the mechanism for reaching consensus is too slow and too energy-hungry, and that they system lacks mechanisms to ensure that the contents of the databases are secure."

    Cerf's job title at Google HQ is Chief Internet Evangelist, but he acknowledges concern about the self-reinforcing effect of googling:  "it allows you to create your own universe and to ignore all other information, except that which you find acceptable".

    "Eli Pariser gave this memorable phenomenon a name:  The Filter Bubble".  People create their own conceptual bubbles, but they also co-create them – which explains the return to tribalism.

    So we're getting to the future via clever technology, even if it's a bit of a random walk at times.  Technology has two primary dimensions: material and social.  Systems that implement the designs succeed via good engineering – that was the path Browne took in the oil industry (he graduated BSc in Physics from Cambridge).  But the economic and other consequences often screw up due to insufficient care taken with the design of social technology.  That's where humanity needs to up its game.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    Lord Browne on the nexus in which invention meets design, artistry, engineering and commerce:  "I visit the designer Thomas Heatherwick at his studio" in London.  "He is no ordinary designer, and his work and thinking defy easy categorisation.  I put it to him that he is part-designer, part-curator, part-architect and part-engineer."

    "Heatherwick's studio embodies his multi-disciplinary approach.  Two hundred people work here… banks of computers, all equipped with the best computer-aided design software… wood and metal workshops, 3-D printers".

    "Reflecting his collaborative ethos, Heatherwick scrupulously describes his relationship to his work in the plural:  `we imagine'.  From this studio have emerged a succession of ingenious, often playful ideas made concrete.  In 2010, Heatherwick created his `Seed Cathedral' for the UK pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo.  A ten-by-fifteen metre box bristling with 66,000 transparent acrylic `hairs' that moved with the wind and brought light into the structure."  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXbhTHaMwTw

    also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7JpJVmsBgU

    "A few miles to the west of his studio, along the Regent's Canal, is a footbridge he designed that rolls up into a tight ball, like a caterpillar, when a boat needs to pass."  https://www.dezeen.com/2015/12/18/dezeen-a-z-advent-calendar-rolling-bridge-thomas-heatherwick-london/

    [from Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilisation (May 2019)]

    The effect of multidisciplinary cross-fertilising on the psyche of participants is often dramatic when collaboration occurs in a co-creating culture.  It is an obvious key part of how to bring a better world into play.  A progressive economy will be driven by this new more-collegial employment format.  But it does seem to require a benevolent entrepreneur to lead the process.  Unless employees can figure out how to do it for themselves.

    • Incognito 4.1

      There are about 7.8 billion creators on the planet and imagine if they start to consciously co-create.

      People’s creative processes are often put on halt while earning a living (AKA working). Some can apply some of their creative aspects in their jobs but only to a limited and prescriptive extent – for creativity to fully blossom is the definition of freedom. However, the creative process never stops completely and is not bound by office hours.

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    I'm putting this link here because the topic has been trending for at least a decade but still flies under the radar:  https://metaphorproject.org/american-political-framing/introduction-to-political-framing/

    Relevance:  it points to how to establish a portal in the psyche of voters, through which your messaging is more likely to be responded to with consideration.  Experienced campaigners may disagree, but I reckon most apolitical people are as allergic to persuasion and harangue as I am.  Framing works better.

    This site could have done better in writing it up, but at least it's an intro.  Google will probably produce other sites (such as Wikipedia) that fill out the concept, then you get a better idea of how it works in practice.

    • Sacha 5.1

      Framing is not a new topic here (not that we would know it most of the time): /search/lakoff/?search_comments=true&search_posts=true&search_sortby=date

      • Dennis Frank 5.1.1

        Looks like a search for Lakoff rather than framing itself.  What I'd like to see is more examples of how it is being used in political practice, correlated with results that prove effectiveness.  Here's a glimpse:

        "analyzing the psychology of journalists, many will approach a story with a pre-existing expectation or hypothesis and this frame of reference will then serve to organize information."

        "In sum then, frames serve to simplify a complex issue or choice by emphasizing one dimension over another. Government officials, expert sources, advocates and industry are typically uniquely advantaged in setting the frame or context around a debate."

        "Edward Bernays, an early pioneer in public relations, understood how to turn framing to the advantage of corporations and marketers.  In a now infamous campaign, Bernays recommended that the American Tobacco Company launch a “Torches of Freedom” campaign in order to boost cigarette sales among women. The ad campaign resonated with the 1920s era women’s voting rights movement, with the campaign framing cigarettes as a symbol of liberty (Rampton & Stauber,1994)"

        • Sacha

          One recent example hereabouts: when an opposition says the government uses too many working parties, retorting 'they did it too' does nothing to challenge the underlying framing that working parties are wasteful and a symptom of indecisiveness.

          • Dennis Frank

            Yeah, good example of applied tacit psychology.  Funny how nobody seems to provide a way to defeat that framing – which tacitly concedes the point.

            The way to defeat it would be to cite examples of working parties that did actually deliver the appropriate outcome.  The history seems bad but the theory is good: if the selected party is genuinely representative of the public (a microcosm), then it will work well if steered properly so members do what is required of them. 

            If directed to serve a partisan purpose, such suitable outcomes are unlikely, or arguable – better if directed to serve the interests of the broader public (common good).

            • Sacha

              Need to address the frames like decisiveness, not get caught on 'working parties' as such. Find stories that convey values like 'bringing everyone along' with important decisions, doing the job properly rather than rapidly, etc.

              And sometimes the best counter is to just be decisive with something and publicise that.

        • Incognito

          Where did you get the quoted text from, Dennis?

  6. Dennis Frank 6

    In his journalism career, Charles Mann spoke to “experts in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Over the years, as the conversations accumulated, it seemed to me that the responses to my questions fell into two broad categories, each associated (in my mind) with one of two people, Americans who lived in the twentieth century.”

    “Neither is well-known to the public, yet one man has often been called the most important person born that century and the other is the principal founder of the most significant cultural and intellectual movement of that time. Both recognized and tried to solve the fundamental question that will face my children’s generation: how to survive the next century without a wrenching global catastrophe.” [The Wizard and the Prophet, 2018]

    He’s talking about two avatars of the Green movement. Despite being part of it since ‘68, this was news to me! Due to happening before I was born.

    William Vogt, the prophet, “laid out the basic ideas for the modern environmental movement”. He found “apocalyptic environmentalism” which is “the belief that unless humankind drastically reduces consumption its growing numbers and appetite will overwhelm the planet’s ecosystems.”

    Norman Borlaug, the wizard, “has become the emblem of what has been termed `techno-optimism’ or `cornucopianism’ – the view that science and technology, properly applied, can help us produce our way out of our predicament”.

    What we have here is two social archetypes. Borlaug was promethean, Vogt exemplified stewardship. Who won? Well, the short answer is Borlaug because he created the Green Revolution and won the Nobel prize for lifting a large portion of humanity out of poverty.

    The long answer is better: they both won, in the sense of each launching an entire ethos, and the survival of humanity does indeed depend on acknowledging that an integral view is requisite – in which both philosophies and the practices that apply them are essential and complementary. Greens don’t do zero-sum thinking, and this is one of the most important instances in which both/and logic reveals our optimal path into the future.



  7. JO 7

    How can we work out how to get 'there' unless we understand – and can acknowledge – how we got 'here'? Many of us, with the advantage of age-related long-sightedness,  can't un-see the many ways our brave new world unfolded after 1984; many others, some of whom are running this country, have known nothing else. They grew up with the messianic doctrine of 'there is no alternative'. No facts were permitted to threaten such a useful slogan.  

    Some quotes…

    'Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, so long as they pay their taxes.” The fundamentals would not only remain unchanged; it was essential that they stay in place.'

    '…belief was that “no one any longer cares who owns, runs, controls or profits from healthcare (or other public services), providing the possessively-individual consumer’s personal need is satisfied.”
    When the global financial crash happened, it turned out that ownership mattered a great deal.'

    'There is an element of ideological self-preservation here, even as they deny the existence of an ideology and appeal simply to common sense. […] There had to have been no choice, so nobody can be to blame for having made it. The alternative is simply unthinkable.

    From a comment
    'When asked what was her proudest achievement, Thatcher said without any hesitation, ''why, that was New Labour'' '



  8. Jenny How to get there 8

    Talking of 'smart cities' and thinking public transport. Electric trains and electric buses must be part of the mix, but what about electric ferries?

    Perfect for a harbour city like Auckland. Built in NZ, non-polluting, quiet, cheap to run, cheap to maintain. 

    Auckland City Council should immediately put in an order for at least one of these. 

    Wellington Electric Boat Building Company is on track to have the Southern Hemisphere's first fully electric passenger ferry up and running on Wellington Harbour by mid-2020….

    …..Rated to carry 135 passengers, it is hoped the vessel will be cruising across Wellington Harbour with commuters and day trippers by mid-2020.


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