What will change the world? Welcome to the hive mind of Twitter.

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One of the things I love about Twitter is the way it enables serendipity on a grand scale.  Recently, I can’t remember how, I ran across @blogbrevity (a.k.a Angela Dunn) whose Twitter feed resonated with me and we followed each other.

On June 9th she invited me to join #Ideachat – Twitter Chat & Salon for Twitter Thinkers About “Ideas”. The topic for discussion was “What is the one long-term trend that will change the world?“. As food for thought Angela shared an interview with trend expert and curator Cecile Poignant of TrendTablet.

This topic fascinates me and it aligns nicely with other interests, like Social Innovation Sydney. Also the more that people start to talk and think about things like this then the more likely we are to take action.

The chat was dynamic and thought provoking.  And it got me thinking.

One of the recurring ideas was collective action, and some of the themes are nicely summed up in these tweets:


I started to realise that the big trend is something that enables the self organizing of co-creation. The big trend is the evolution of the hive mind.  It is only with social communication platforms like Twitter that something akin to a hive mind can emerge.

The always on and ambiently connected nature of Twitter is ideal for the emergence of a hive mind.  We begin to shed our privacy and to live within the omnipresent gaze of the group. We are connected into the minutiae of other people’s lives in ways that were not possible before.  We are connected to people in distant places and to the events that occur in their orbit as well as in our own.

Here the very minutiae of chats on Twitter, that so many disparage mindlessly, are important in creating the connections of the hive mind.

Once one becomes accustomed to the continual connection, to knowing the news before it makes the news media, to finding answers to questions faster and better than a search engine, then the connection to the hive mind comes to seem normal.

Then from the connection to the hive mind, one begins to sift out those individuals and groups who hold similar ideas and beliefs.  And from that pool of people the self organization and co-creation can begin.

Some people will try to tell us that feeling weird and strangely out of touch when disconnected from the hive mind is a kind of psychopathology. But they have not yet understood or experienced the new reality of constant ambient connection to the hive mind.

Nor have they seen the results of loose ties in action, network amplification of communication, the reciprocal knowledge engine, and the power of a hive mind working together to co-create change. I suspect that this is just over the horizon.

UPDATE 15 June 2012


Following are a few recent posts that have informed my thinking on this topic:

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Connectedness – it's not just a technology thing, it's a people thing

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For many years now my friends, colleagues and I have been talking and thinking about the hyperconnections made available to us by the growth of the internet, telecommunications devices and networks, and social platforms. For a good background on it check out Mark Pesce and Ross Dawson.

But I think that we have reached a state in our evolution as human where the practices of hyperconnectivity have changed the way we are doing, being, and thinking.

Connectedness is no longer about technology it is about people. Our need for connectedness is beginning to transcend the technology. I believe that, even if the internet disappeared tomorrow, our desire for and expectation of connectedness would continue and that the behaviours engendered by the internet will remain to be expressed.

Ian Shafer summed it up nicely recently:

“I think this whole notion of connectedness is more a state of human evolution than rather a generational thing.”
from: Ian Shafer, in Generation C: A new demographic label for marketers by Kai Ryssdal, 24 Feb 2012

Movements like #Occupy and the Arab Spring around the world show that people connecting is more than just a technology thing, although technology has amplified the ability of people to connect across distance.

Human beings don’t want to just engage and connect with brands, a desire to create a world better suited for the beings that inhabit it (and their progeny) is growing and we see real life communities growing.

A good example of this Social Innovation Sydney. It started online but this community connects in real life meetups and the human network creates connections, relationships, and activities far beyond the initial starting point.

If the internet disappears tomorrow how will you be able to find your tribe?

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2012: Not the end of the world, but perhaps the end of the world as we know it

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As we come up to the year 2012 many prognosticators are predicting the end of the world. I suspect that this will not come to pass.

But I do think that we are seeing the end of the world as we’ve come to know it during the latter years of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first century. Many of the verities upon which we’ve relied will be falter or disappear.

Doomsayers talk about the Mayan calendar ending in 2012. However, The Guardian kindly reassures us that an “expert” says: Mayan tablet does not predict end of the world in 2012.

No matter what one thinks of these predictions of doom it is clear that we are moving into a new world next year on several fronts, mainly due to the global economic situation.

The economy

The global economy is not looking well – the British, European and US economies are mired in problems that seem insurmountable.  Austerity measures are starting to bite in the UK and Eurozone. We are starting to see the breakdown of normal social bonds. For example, in Greece, there are even stories of parents giving up their children to the state because they can’t feed them: Greek economic crisis turns tragic for children abandoned by their families.

The US is coming up to a Presidential election and the deadlocks between Republicans and Democrats are likely to continue thus blocking any possibility for change. The economic situation in the US does not seem to be improving, in spite of the ‘green shoots’ some speak of.  Instead the charts tell a sobering story (source: Financial Armageddon) for the US:

Australia has been sheltered from all of this by the strength of China, and it remains to be seen if this continues into the coming year.

What can we do?

It seems that there is not a lot we can do as individuals to address these larger global problems.  However, what we can do is adjust our own lifestyle and mindset to better suit these challenging times. Since we are moving into a different kind of world it seems prudent to prepare proactively rather than sit and wait.

We are moving into a world where the rule of law is shifting, where the rights we’ve assumed were ours are being stripped away, where the social contract between the government and the governed is dissolving.

In this kind of environment the only source of solace is individuals who join together to create positive change in the world. We must join together to create a new kind of polity that rejects control and inequity. We must join together to create tribes and communities that embrace peace and reject anger.

Here are some of my thoughts about how we can approach this challenge:

Mindset?

Kindness. Compassion. Love. Community. Dignity. Composure. Peace. Grace. Flow.

Lifestyle?

Find our tribes. Build communities.

Sustainability. Grow a garden.  Simplicity.

Walk with a friend. Slow down. Eat fresh food. Share a meal. Breathe.

Business?

New models. Innovation. Doing good. Creativity. Collaboration. Consensus.

Profit with honour. Nurture people and the environment.

And?

It is good to remember that there is strength in the people when they join together for the common good…

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Riots, desire, consumerism, community and values.

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Want is a funny word. It can mean different things, such as:

“absence or deficiency of something desirable or requisite” or
“to be lacking or absent, as a part or thing necessary to completeness”, or
“to feel a need or a desire for; wish for”, or
“to wish, need, crave, demand, or desire”
(Source Dictionary.com)

The scenes in the UK of rioters and looting were awful on many levels. But one scene that was repeated that was especially revelatory was the looters trying on goods in the stores before they stole them.

That behaviour spoke to me of want.

In the past, usually riots were because people lacked some necessity – food, freedom, the right to vote. That is, the rioters acted in response to want in the sense of absence or lack of something. This is the kind of rioting we have seen in the middle east in recent times, places like Egypt and Syria.

But in the UK we saw rioters, unfocused on anything except inflicting damage on property and helping themselves to goods for which they had a desire. That is, acting in response to want in the sense of desire for something. And that something wanted was material goods rather than aspiration to freedom or truth.

This is different. It is about people who have learned to desire those things for the acquisition of which they do not have sufficient economic resources. And yet, they do have the means – through a collective act of will – to achieve access to the goods they desire.

The looters have achieved their want, they now have the material goods that they sought. However, in achieving those goods they have destroyed the community facilities upon which they and many others rely. They have reinforced their other-ness. They have achieved a short term goal while simultaneously creating the platform for increased levels of dissatisfaction.

I suspect that material goods will not really fulfil the wants of the rioters and looters in the UK. Their anomie will remain. And they will recall the power of their collective action. They will also recall the powerlessness of the authorities in the face of that collective action.

It might be as Winston Churchill once said (in slightly different circumstances):

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Source: Sir Winston Churchill, speech at Lord Mayor’s Luncheon, Mansion House, London, November 10, 1942

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Staying human

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I’ve had a very lucky life in many ways. But along with that I’ve lost a lot of people in my immediate family over the years – parents, aunts, cousins, grandparents – to untimely death. No great traumas. Traditional family illnesses mainly rather than accidents.

The thing I’ve learned through all of this is that we need to honour those we love and those who loved us by experiencing the pain and sadness.

We live in a time where one need not even suffer the full effects of the common cold. Take a few simple tablets and we can omit many of the nasty symptoms. The same goes for our emotions.

Instead of enduring, of going through the feelings of denial, anger, sadness and pain we can simply pop a pill or two. We can avoid the pain. We can reject the feelings that are natural and human.

But I think that by doing that we reject the love we knew before the loss. By accepting the pain we acknowledge the loss of the one we love. We acknowledge the fundamental nature of being human. We acknowledge that we are each here for a relatively short time. We acknowledge that our loved one existed and that their loss means something.

I take no shame in shedding a tear for those I love who are gone from me. I remember why they were special to me and I to them.

I celebrate their time here and the love we shared. That is all that matters in the end. It is part of staying human.

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Inspired and delighted with people's willingness to work for positive change #sibsyd

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I’m exhausted after a busy weekend and totally inspired by the people I just spent the weekend with!

We held the first Social Innovation Sydney Startup Camp this weekend. It was great to see so many people willing to work together in an open and collaborative way on developing social innovation projects.

It really inspires me with hope for the future of our world to see people join together, starting as strangers, and collaborate on social innovation ideas so effectively.

There’s a nice round-up of Startup Camp from @lucyjjames on her blog: day 1 and day 2; and a some feedback from the participants on Social Innovation Sydney.

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A lucky country indeed …

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Even though it was once said ironically, it has always seemed to me that Australia really is the lucky country. Our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, sums it up:

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil…
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts…
We’ve boundless plains to share…

In recent times the troubles of far off places like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and others have made me think about Australia.

We have been very lucky. Australia has a good economy, stable government, social cohesion, rule of law and a very congenial way of life. We have adjusted to the rigours of our climate, which has been so well described by Dorothea Mackellar in her poem My Country.

Australia alternates between flood and fire in ways that would make most people blanch. But in between we enjoy weather, beaches, mountains and scenery that are breathtaking in their beauty. And our healthy economy means that we enjoy amenities that inhabitants of other countries might envy.

But given the challenges that we face as part of the world community – climate change, food security, refugees, religious and political extremism – Australians need to start thinking about how we can best meet these challenges.

It is somewhat disconcerting to realise, given the enormous challenges facing us, that neither of the major political parties in Australia has any proposal or policy to deal with them.

Instead the political parties are consumed with petty internal divisions and ignore those for whom they supposedly stand. Our political parties and the current crop of hacks certainly live up to the second part of Donald Horne’s saying:

“Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.”

When did the Liberal Party become the party of naysaying cold-hearted xenophobes? When did the Labor Party become a cold-hearted machine driven by internal polling and factions?

I think the past elders of each party would be horrified to see the nasty polemical poll driven machines that each has become.

How do they sleep at night when they fight against each other, not for principle nor for policy, but for petty gain that sets the needs of the nation and its people as naught?

We need leaders of of vision. We need leaders who can look twenty or more years into the future, then build and plan for it. We need the kind of vision that built us a nation. We need the kind of principles that gave us a fair and equitable system for determining the treatment of working people. We need an engaged citizen populace who are educated enough to participate in democracy as educated citizens.

Most of all we need leaders who do not fall back into polemical and party driven positions that do not reflect the many shades of grey in the real world. We need leaders with compassion for people and who are true to the spirit of a fair go for all in this nation.

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Sometimes a tweet is not enough

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In the olden days when I was very young it was the custom, upon receipt of a kindness from someone, to write them a thank-you note. This note took the form of a missive, hand-written, on personal stationery or a note card. The note was then taken to the post office and sent via that which we now call snail-mail.

Someone did me a kindness very recently. That is, they went out of their way to do something nice for me. And it seemed that just sending a tweet that said something like “hey thx that was gr8” did not truly express how touching I found their action.

With the advent of modern telecommunications such as email, and the subsequent growth of micro-format communications like Twitter, we have lost idea of sending a tangible token of our gratitude.

So today, for the first time in many years, I sat down and wrote a thank-you note using pen and paper. Then Trotsky and I walked up to the post office to send it off via snail-mail (using two stamps because I’m not sure how much it costs these days).

To send a tangible token of thanks rather than a digital one enables the recipient to perceive it with their various physical senses. For example, they can put the physical token on their desk or bookshelf, or pop it into their wallet and carry it around with them. These are things we cannot yet do reliably with our electronic communications at present.

Clearly since so much of our interaction these days is online it is often the best, fastest and most relevant way to communicate with people. But sometimes a tweet is not enough and this idea of sending thank-you notes might just be a new (but old) way of doing things?

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Gear review: Lenovo ThinkPad X201i

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For my recent trip to Europe I was able to take and road test a Lenovo ThinkPad ultra-portable laptop (model x201i). I’m going to be a bit sad to give it back.

That’s a pretty big call for someone like me who usually takes a MacBook Pro on trips and hasn’t used a Windows laptop for many years.

The Lenovo turned out to be a gem of a machine. It is fairly light in weight for a fully loaded laptop. It has built in wifi and DVD drive, several USB ports and all the functionality of a Windows desktop in a nice lightweight laptop. And it has the solid feel of a well-engineered machine, not just flimsy plastic like some of the other Windows laptops I’ve used.

I was traveling for nearly a month and needed to do a lot of work – writing documents, slide decks and working on spreadsheets – while away. This machine turned out to be very good for this. A proper keyboard with large keys for my fairly large hands was a real boon. There is even a little light up near the webcam that gives some illumination to the keyboard in low light, although it would have been even better if the keyboard was backlit.

The ThinkPad survived some pretty cold weather in France and Belgium and worked just fine at airport lounges in transit through London, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Usually I disable all of the manufacturer’s software as it tends to annoy me. But in this case the ThinkPad wireless connector was very useful as I was in low wifi areas.

The built in microphone and webcam are good quality and made Skype calls a breeze so it was easy to join in conference calls while traveling. The onboard DVD drive made watching shows on flights a good option where no in-flight entertainment was available. The multiple USB ports made the mini hub I was carrying redundant and I was able to plug in my phone and Flip Video Camera at the same time.

From this experience I think that the Lenovo ThinkPad x201i is an excellent Windows laptop for business travelers. It combines all the grunt of a a larger machine in a lightweight and fairly rugged device. It’s definitely on the shortlist for the next laptop we buy in this house.

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