Category Archives: convergence

TED Global 2012 – Radical Openness

TED Global 2012 was another fantastic feast of ideas from teaching to collaborative consumption and genetech to makers. The notes below are my highlights from the five days.

Daphne Koller gave a really interesting insight into her new venture – a platform for educators to share lectures based on her experiences in the Stanford AI course (100k people joined the Machine Learning course!) The stats she presented were facinating and her talk is well worth 18 minutes of your life if you work in education (I will add a link when talk is available). Most interesting to me were the comments on personalised learning, the median response time between students getting a response to a question (outside of lecture time) being 22 minutes and the approach they have adopted for peer to peer and self grading. This is changing education.

Daphne Koller - coursera - 3

On the theme of education Beau Lotto gave an excellent presentation on engaging kids in science and getting a scientific paper published that starts with “Once upon a time…”. But his co-presenter 12 year old Amy O’Toole stole the show with a fantastic presentation of her experience. Very inspirational and worth a watch. And the TED Ed event introduced the really interesting platform for sharing education talks – but most of all I loved the idea of Flip Teaching – – why don’t all schools use this technique?


James Stavridis (NATO Supreme Commander) on open source security said “we need to build bridges not walls” and described how teaching how to read and write is fundamental to educating the Afghan soldiers – “when you can read and write you typically wear a pen in your pocket”. Plus, some great stories like the $10 billion credit card fraud by a couple of hackers “who were probably at TED last year” and an incredible homemade semi submersible caught trafficing 6 tonnes of cocaine.

Home made sub

The Shell lunch on Urban Mobility (challenges, issues and opportunities) was made really interesting by the mix of 16 or so participants from the founder of zipcar (now founder of to a marketing guy from Audi to a Chemistry Professor. Interesting memes for me were; the desire for linked data to support the search for “journey options”; no single supplier is going to be the central node in the urban mobility infrastructure; how can we use the internet as a model for structuring services. I wish we had an extra hour or two to really dig into some of the ideas being presented.

Susan Solomon presented some mind blowing work on creating a “genetically diverse global stem cell array” to enable the growing of “diseases in a petri dish” based on human tissue. We are on the cusp of a transformation of the pharma industry from one where big drug companies produce for the masses to one which is much more personalised, precise and community based. On a similar theme, John Wilbanks arguments around the “unintended consequences of informed consent” were fascinating. He is campaigning for creating a “health commons” where individuals can share personal data for the greater benefit of science discovery.

Susan Solomon - NY Stem Cell Foundation

Rachel Botsmans insight into collaborative consumption, micro-preneurs and “reputational capital” should be interesting to anyone thinking about how to support city systems that engage citizens. I really liked the notions of “connecting trust worthy strangers” and the fact that reputation is contextual – if I am trusted on e-bay should I be trusted on stackoverflow? Should reputation be transferable? Reputational Capital: power, trust, influence.

Rachel Botsman - 2

On the theme of collaborative consumption I really liked Robin Chase’s ideas around “Peer Inc” – the notion that combining the benefits of a community based context with industrial models of business organisation provides a best of both worlds scenario – watch how this strategy develops with her new venture Beth Noveck hinted at a similar scenario in her call for more linkage between open data and institutions that help it flow for the purpose of collaboration (“transparency of data is not by itself the answer”).

And finally, Massimo Banzi did a great intro to Arduino, Matternet, and was the first video to be posted on-line – go and take a look at the really nice projects he mentioned…

Other great talks that I will watch again include: Dan Tapscott on “networked intelligence” and 4 principles of open worlds: collaboration, transparency, sharing, empowerment; Kirby Ferguson from Everything is a Remix on patents and ownership of ideas; and Clay Shirky on the printing press, github and school dinners.

other highlights worth searching out:

monotaskers – 3D printable covers for your smartphone to reduce its functionality – timely for me given the current 3D print project at Arup.
Manu Prakash on foldscope – a 50 cent microscope for disease diagnostics
Shyam Sankar on IA not AI (Linklighter vs Minsky) – Intelligence Augmentation and human computer symbiosis as seen in Foldy, a protein folding game.
JenSpace in Brooklyn – a DIY Bio Hackspace
Caterina Mota on and the kit of not parts project
Matt Mills on an interesting AR kit called Aura
Shimon Shocken on Nand2Tetris – building a computer from nothing
Eddie Obeng for a great presentation on
Neil Harbisson on “hearing colour” and his cyborg foundation
Robert Legato on visual effects for Apollo B, Titanic and Hugo films
Jonathan Trent, NASA, on the pretty impressive looking OMEGA microalgae fuel system
Amy Cuddy on how our nonverbals govern how we feel about ourselves (the toilets of TED were full of people standing like Wonder Woman…)
Jane McGonigal fantastic talk, watch it and go to and
Heather Brooke on MP expenses data FOI and the alaveteli freedom of information platform
Marc Goodman does a great, scary presentation on how “Radicals use Openness” a great warning about the “other” things people do with technology.
John Maeda showed some great projects from the 90′s and spoke about his new challenges of leadership in the context of Design, Art and Technology.
Boaz Almog demoed quantum locking – really cool science.
Mozilla Popcorn – a semantic approach to videos on the web – an archive of natural history videos and photos

Amazing music by:

Raghu Dixit – rockstar
Natasha Pavenski – pianist
Usman Riaz – Percussive Guitarist
Preston Reed – Revolutionary Guitarist
Sarah Slean – pianist

And did you know that the word scientist was only coined in 1833 by William Whewell

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TED Global the substance of things not seen

Just back from my first TED. Have watched the videos over the past couple of years and have heard first hand accounts from past participants, so was looking forward to living it in real time.

We organised a workshop in parallel to the TED U(niversity) sessions. The new Drivers of Change cards were one of the gifts given to the 700 participants and the aim of the workshop was to introduce people to the cards and how they could be used to help people generate ideas worth spreading. The feedback on the day was excellent and we have several people to follow up with post event. The results of the TED group voting are on the DoC voting application with details of the voting and photos on flickr.

Thanks to the TED guys for showing the results of the Drivers of Change workshop votes on the main stage at TED Global. Bruno gave an excellent overview of the results and mentioned the pointer to the open voting set at

I went native at TED and reverted to pen and moleskine so below are a few notes which act as reminders for things i want to chat to people about and talks that i want to come back to when they are online. They are listed time linear since that is how my moleskine works.

Stefan Sagmeister – two things stuck in my mind – the very cool Casa da Musica dynamic identity, take a look at Brand New’s explanation and his approach to the seven year (itch) sabbatical which he justifies by describing how he is pulling forward 5 years worth of retirement and interspersing it in yearly blocks (the sabbaticals) into his work life. Great idea – but how to reintegrate with clients upon our return?

Gordon Brown was surprise speaker and has generated much discussion in the media (and at the event). His talk was very polished, he made the woman next to me cry, and he got a standing ovation. He also got slated for insincerity and auditioning for his next job. Either way “the power to communicate across borders” enabled by the photograph and the increasingly convergent phenomena of the internet in making these stories told in real time was an interesting theme.

Evan Grant, seeing the sound of nature as patterns in the sand – excellent talk, well worth watching again when on-line. He introduced me to Cymatics and had my mind racing with applications I want to try.

Rory Sutherland – an ad man at Ogilvy, he usually speaks at “TED Evil”. A fun presentation to watch – he suggests that engineers should not have spent 6 billion to build CTRL to reduce journey times but should have invested in making the journey so enjoyable that people would not notice the time they spent on the train. His suggestions included using the 6 billion to pay for super models to serve free champagne to all! Great story about the new Diamond Shreddies.

Mathieu Lehanneur – showed a great piece of product design where a kids asthma device inflates over night so that the kid has to take his medicine in the morning to “look after” the inhaler.

Rebecca Saxe – fires a magnetic pulse into her brain to deactivate a group of neurons that controls her moral perspective of other peoples actions. The Pentagon are calling but she is not taking their calls…

Henry Markram – “the drugs developed today are largely emperical” he is building a model of the brain so that they can start to simualate how the brain works. Need to watch this one again to figure out how this “actually” works and am interested in the implications for the Artificial Intelligence community.

It was good to see Manual Lima presenting visualcomplexity and Candy Chan had an interesting talk on community information architecture experiments – unseen conversations in neighbourhoods – worth a look for those interested in urban information systems.

One of the really inspirational talks for me was 89 year old Elaine Morgan making a compelling case for questioning facts that we assume to be correct. She wants the academic world to reconsider the aquatic ape theory.

Another great Urban Info project was the Mannahatta Project presented by Eric Sanderson. They have geo referenced historical data of 17th century Manhattan to bring into focus the ecology today and “plan for the urban ecosystem of the future”. Great presentation, bought the book.

Architect to watch Bjarke Ingels showed two great projects which stuck in my mind – Danish pavillion for the Shanghai expo (they are flying out the mermaid) and a local housing development that creates a little mountain in the flat landscape – note to self, pick up a copy of YES IS MORE / AN ARCHICOMIC ON ARCHITECTURAL EVOLUTION (ISBN 8799298805).

Itay Talgam – what kind of leader are you? – an excellent presentation using clips of conductors showing different styles of leadership. It needs the visuals to explain – one to watch on video.

ones i need to watch again are:

Loretta Napoleoni

Misha Glenny

Parag Khanna

Posted in convergence, drivers of change, innovation | 2 Comments

Hackday fun


I spent the weekend at the Yahoo Hackday last week. As Crave puts it

“The idea behind it was simple: you’ve got exactly 24 hours to hack together the most interesting, innovative, useful or fun piece of software or hardware, using developer tools from Yahoo, or anyone else for that matter. ”

David Filo opened the event, I learnt alot about the Yahoo API’s available – a great way for them to show me what i could be using… and thought the talk by Rasmus Lerdorf on hacking with PHP was great.

Next steps – how to organise a hackday at Arup for the virtual design, BIM, GIS and intranet communities…

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ETech 2009 – summary

Excellent few days at ETech, book full of notes and lots of links in delicious, but a few memory aids for myself….

On the first day and half, lots of talk about sustainability (many talks had Drivers of Change issues being rolled out and cited), less on the “this is what we have done”, but a positive feeling that the design community were well positioned to contribute to the solution. Second day and half became more techie.

Tim O’Reilly on stuff that matters – I liked the motto he used about his attitude to running his business “business as a road trip – need to keep an eye on gas tank – but trip is not a tour of petrol stations”

Mike Kuniavsky – Thing M – on spimes and tagging objects with spimes or RFID’s “there is a long history of craftsmen adding meta data to objects, for example silver marks”

David Merrill – Siftables – showed demos of some really compelling word games with his cookie sized ubicomp devices. Potential opportunity to develop some serious play activities using these interfaces to manipulate scenarios…

Siftables word game from Jeevan Kalanithi on Vimeo.

Aaron Koblin – amazing demo of his processing work and his Amazon Turk “artificial, artificial intelligence” projects. He launched his “bicycle built for two thousand” on wednesday night.

Bicycle Built for Two Thousand from Aaron on Vimeo.

The next day he and the guys from Velodyne demoed their Lidar system…

Lidar demo at ETech09 from Duncan Wilson on Vimeo.

Which was used in the Radiohead House of Cards “video”

Interesting comment that lidar being installed in vehicles creating the google streetview layer of google maps – coming soon a real 3D map of the street…

Other great stuff included Ben Cerveny on operating systems for the built environment, Andrea Vaccari MIT senseable city lab on understanding the temporal signature of space – great comparison of geotagged photos from flickr showing locations where americans visit vs where italians visit in italy, Jennifer Magnolfi from Herman Miller on programmable buildings and quoting Danny Hillis on “flexibility is modular or programmable”, and Julian Bleeker from near future laboratory / nokia on design fiction and diagetic prototypes. He showed a great video of the Death Star over SF to “imagine, to materialise ideas and to speculate about a different kind of world”

Presentations and SlideShares are on the ETech site [including our own Chris Luebkeman]

My links to things of interest are on delicious

The twitter verse were commenting

Photos are on flickr

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ETech 2009

Am at ETech 2009 this week. The event has just started with Tim O’Reilly talking about his grand challenges, a focus on scenarios and a really nice couple of slides on the characteristics of rewarding innovation. Paraphrasing…

“think of business as a road trip, you need to keep an eye on gas tank to make sure you don’t run out of fuel, but the trip is not a tour of petrol stations”

One to remember for anyone running internal R&D funding programmes…

To get pointers to what I am finding interesting watch my etech delicious feed or twitters.

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Today’s Future Designer

Last month we were asked to pull together a short thought piece for an internal Global Buildings event at Arup on the “Future of Design”. The pre-recorded piece was being used alongside feedback from clients on their view of the value of design. Both pieces provided the introduction for break out groups to think about 4 plausible scenarios for Arup in the years ahead.

The ideas in this video have been distilled from a number of issues raised in the Convergence Drivers of Change cards which I am currently working on. Any comments, reactions or suggestions would therefore be gratefully received. The five catalysts for thought were:

Design thinking – should we take a strategic role as designers

Collaboration – do we have design communities

Skills – do we nurture the top bar of T shaped people

Tools – should we share our toolmaking with the world

Complexity – which performance data streams do you use

Today’s Future Designer from Duncan Wilson on Vimeo.

“The role of the designer in the business world is changing. With increased activity at a strategic level and the innate skills that support community and collaboration, the designer has the skill set to play a pivotal role in today’s business. In addition, they have the desire to work with new tools and are experienced in making the complex simple. In a world where technological innovation has increased the complexity of both the products and services we consume, achieving elegance has become the hallmark of good design.”

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Walking the digital dog – IET

Went to the IET at Savoy Place last night to listen to Roo Reynold’s Mountbatten Lecture (30th in the series and still in his 20′s, just, Roo is the youngest Mountbatten speaker by a good 20 years…)

Roo works for IBM as a Metaverse evangelist. He has had significant involvement in setting up IBM’s second life activities. His talk focused on how virtual worlds are being used for work, play and learning and on the collaborative / social nature of those spaces as being the driver for their persistent use.

Best slide? I liked the question “will mmorpg’s be the new golf?” I think the original quote comes from one of the Linden Lab guys – but the analogy was people don’t play golf to get better at putting a ball in a hole it is a social activity, so is world of warcraft etc.

Also worth mentioning is a link to IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook site.

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DoC Convergence

Work has finally started on my first set of Drivers of Change cards. The theme is convergence and has been identified by many delegates in the foresight workshops as a key Driver of Change. The first step is to start talking to people to try and unpack what this driver might mean. Below is my starting point, postings in this thread over the next six months with document my conversations around this theme. All comments and inputs welcome!!


Our interest in convergence is trying to understand how the landscape around us is changing in response to new collaborations, the merging of sciences and the combination of sectors to provide new and niche services.

New collaborations such as the links developed between Apple, Google and AT&T in the personal computing, mapping and telephony markets were critical to develop the iPhone. The combination of the different skills that each of the companies brought together has significantly advanced the products and services around mobile computing and hints at the evolution of IT into a post PC era. Other collaborations include LucasArts and ILM highlighting the increased convergence between the film and the games industry.

Similarly the collaborations made through the merging of science in areas such as biotech and genetech are creating new markets and business sectors. Biotechnology combines disciplines like genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, embryology and cell biology, which are in turn linked to practical disciplines like chemical engineering, information technology, and robotics. Whilst there is a long history of biotech the convergence started to gather speed in the early 80′s when it became possible to patent genetically modified micro organisms opening up the economic potential for biotech.

The combination of sectors also appears as companies seek to create new and niche markets catering to an increasingly mass customised economy. Health tourism is such an example where companies are providing, and people are purchasing, the ability to have medical treatment in a location other than their home area either for economic or ethical reasons. The convergence however is that such treatments are often cosmetic or not clinically required and as such are being made as a consumer transaction. The ability to stay in a nice place whilst this occurs becomes a need not a desire.

So what are the trends and how will it impact the built environment.

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