I Becomes We ... Our future depends on it! #18 #cong16

By Ginger Aarons.

In our narcissistic society, we are slowly starting to see how the ‘I’ has affected the ‘We’. As we become increasingly aware of each other in the group setting, what we can accomplish together becomes real and takes over, giving us a new way to relate to our rapidly changing world. Our need to be part of something bigger than ourselves is the way of our future. In fact, our future depends on it. 

Exploration of this topic is based on a new endeavour in crowdfunding, creating new avenues to preserving history and in that, building communities for a better quality of life. 

When I first came up with the concept to crowdfund for historic projects in built heritage, I wasn’t thinking about community in the larger context, I was thinking about what I could do for the historic house owner, the ones that seemed to have inherited their troubles through the handing down of historic buildings with no way to sustain them due to the loss of land to run a working farm that provided income to keep them, to those that were doing their best to keep it all going through running a hotel business from their homes. Some have made huge successes out of the endeavors and others, mostly very large homes, seem to struggle even more due to upkeep and other requirements imposed from having more footfall and traffic. 

Ginger Aaron 2

When I first heard about Bantry House’s peril from inheritance tax, I cringed, knowing the family for years through my tourism business and I remember thinking, this is a huge draw for the local economy and we’re about to lose it entirely.  The same with Russborough House … with Westport House … then a historic bridge in Moycullen.  I realized that if we lost this built heritage and we didn’t work together we would lose a very big part of Ireland’s draw to the common tourist as well as the diaspora. With the economy still in recovery mode, I thought and discussed with colleagues in the business of saving built heritage, that if we based projects on community, then it would serve even a broader use for each community that has something to save.  One example of this type of philanthropy is Claregalway Castle.  It is such a blessing to have this in our community and the use for the greater good, bringing our communities together with Galway city and all the outter lying towns. 

Ginger Aaron 3

So, in my future, my ‘I’ is becoming the ‘we’ that feels passionate about our heritage, buildings, bridges, clock towers, cottages, and whatever else needs saving.  Our heritage, all parts of our heritage,  need to be saved in a manner that brings us together as local communities and as collective, worldwide communities.  A place where architects, visionaries, stone masons, builders, marketers and every day people get together to ‘make the difference we want to see’.  In my future, I see a pooling of resources that circumvent the need for government funding to save heritage in any country, not just Ireland.  I see a future built with every hand, no matter how small and with whatever one can give as it takes everyone to build communities that last and that mean something for our future generations whilst creating jobs, forging new peace intiatives through knowledge and the sharing of experiences and by spurring creativity.  

I hope my future is just around the corner and I hope that you’ll join me.

Publications for Heritage at Risk 

All Has Changed (But Not Utterly): How The Future Of Marketing Looks Just Like The Past. #17 #cong16

By Gerard Tannan.

In a marketing world that spins faster and faster, we dizzily mistake haste and immediacy for progress. When speed of thought is outpaced by urgency of publication, and everyone’s a publisher, then it’s easy to assume that we’re all communicating better. And even easier to assume that with all of these remarkably expressive tools at our disposal, there’s never been a better time to be a marketer.

But pity the poor customer out in the marketplace, trying to distinguish between the urgent and the important, looking for the information required to make the right choice. As more and more messages are sent and received, liked and shared, we feel endlessly connected, part of a crazed hybrid game of pass the parcel and musical chairs. Other players whirl past, their features blurred, whilst messages are half-opened and half-read, their intention surmised rather than understood.

There’s no doubting that the customer is better served by the marketer who has moved from the soapbox pronouncements of much of traditional marketing to a more conversational approach. Two-way conversation is much better than one-way spiel, but when interactive turns hyperactive then everyone struggles to communicate. When we review the progress in marketing communications throughout these past few decades, it seems we’ve moved from the tyranny of mass market monopoly to mob rule with the flick of a few switches.

In this fast and furious new world of communications, it’s tempting to judge the democracy of the new media to mean that everyone gets to have their say, and its informality to mean a new kind of honesty. But experience suggests that when everyone gets to have their say and says the first thing that comes into their heads, not everything gets heard and not everything that’s said is true. 

For the marketer then, it can seem that all has changed, and changed utterly. But the marketer who listens closely to customers knows that some things haven’t changed at all. Great relationships between people, between buyers and sellers, neighbours and friends, those who govern and those who vote them will continue to underpin all real progress. This is the way of our world, and the people who live in it.

Since forever, the great marketplaces of the world have brought buyers and sellers together so that each can have their say, then strike a bargain. In such a marketplace, the customer gets to say what they need, and the shopkeeper gets to tell them how they can provide it. Great marketplaces are built when the transactions taking place across the shop counter are underpinned by a mutual regard and understanding between buyers and sellers. This respect is in turn based on a frank and open exchange of views where both buyer and seller are heard.

Many more modern marketplaces are simply a babel of noise, where neither buyer or seller has a real say, and neither is truly heard. The wise marketer must not mistake chatter for conversation, but must instead ask what it is that the customer needs to hear in order to make their choice, and then express it in a way that can be heard.

This will lead the marketer to consider both what they say and how they say it more carefully. Sometimes, the best way to be heard may surprise the marketer. For example, at times, that can mean saying nothing at all. We hear certain things best in companiable silence. At other times, actions speak louder than words. Only rarely is chattering really heard. It’s only in listening carefully to what customer are saying that the wise marketer knows the difference, and can choose if and when and how to speak in a way that both buyer and seller is heard.

The World Wide Web in the Age of the Industrial Internet #16 #cong16

By Barry Adams.

The web as part of the internet has been around now for 25 years. The web as we know it is websites serving webpages to end users through browsers. Where is the web headed now that connectivity is ubiquitous and most of the internet is about machines talking to other machines? With users moving in to app ecosystems and digital assistants, and web activity concentrating around the big four - Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple - where does that leave websites as we know and love them?

The Industrial Internet – also known as the Internet of Things – has been on the cards for a while. Now in recent years we’re finally seeing it take shape, as technology matures and interconnectivity becomes cheap and ubiquitous. This industrial internet will be mostly invisible to us humans – it’ll primarily be machines talking to other machines in the background, exchanging information to facilitate all kids of industrial and economic processes that help make our lives easier.

Where does this industrial internet, where almost every conceivable piece of technology will be internet-enabled and transmitting its data to relevant platforms, leave the grandfather of internet technologies: the World Wide Web?

For many years people have more or less equated the web with the internet. In our collective conscious they more or less mean the same thing, despite the fact that the web has always been just one of the many technologies that make use of the fundamental underlying network that is the internet. Other technologies, some of which are at least as popular as the web – such as email, FTP, IRC, and many more – also make use of the internet but never quite managed to establish themselves as synonymous with the internet.

Perhaps this is because the web has been a truly transformative technology, impacting on so many different aspects of our daily lives that we can scarcely conceive of a world without it.

The Industrial Internet of Things will have an equally transformative effect on our society. And the web might be one of the IIoT’s casualties along the way.

In the Internet of Things, devices and software talk amongst themselves, sharing information, only making themselves known to people when it’s necessary to do so – in the form of a weather warning, a reminder for a rescheduled meeting, a notification to pick up milk at the supermarket, or whatever it may be. Increasingly, our devices and apps pull data from various sources to learn all about us, so that they may better serve us and pro-actively manage the daily grind of our lives.

It’s this collecting and sharing of data that may make the web obsolete. For many years, the world wide web was the primary, if not the only, source of information on the internet. Every website is a data source, providing information about businesses and people to anyone who wants it. Want to know who was king of Spain in the 16th century? The web will tell you. Where can you get those shoes the cheapest? Let’s Google it. When does that new movie come out? It’ll be on the web somewhere.

Now, fewer and fewer of such queries rely on the web for fulfilment. Voice-based search provides us with answers without us ever having to open a web browser. All the examples above can now be fulfilled by simply talking to Siri or Cortana or Google. We never need to actively go out there and find information – the devices and software that we carry with us everywhere will do that for us, as and when required.

This expands beyond just active search queries. Our devices don’t need us to trigger search queries any more. For example, you may have a calendar reminder to bring your mother to the airport. Your device knows about this reminder – after all, it has access to your calendar – and will gather information about it; what flight, which airport, estimated time of departure, etc. Then, when the flight is delayed, your device will let you know and tell you to wait before you head to the airport. You don’t need to ask your device to do this – it does this all on its own, and will pro-actively notify you of relevant changes when it’s prudent.

Sounds like science fiction? This is already happening. Android devices using Google Now will provide you with precisely this kind of reminder:


The use cases of this type of pro-active notification are almost limitless. Have an appointment with friends to go for a round of golf? When the weather turns and threatens to spoil your day, your device might propose to book a session of indoor laser quest instead. Achieved a new record step count on your Fitbit? Your device will offer you a reward in the form of a discount voucher for a protein shake in a nearby health bar. Need to get to a meeting at an unknown address? Your device has already planned the route, including a short stop at your favourite coffee shop chain for a quick cuppa.

Aside from the obvious commercial opportunities for businesses, this sort of automated life enhancement has other repercussions. In the past, we are used to opening a browser and searching for things like a laser quest session or a health bar. The new internet of things will make such manual searching obsolete. Instead, the software algorithms behind the scenes will do all the thinking for us, learning what we like and don’t like, and providing us with exactly those options we most enjoy.

The end result is that the web – all those websites out there that provide this information to these systems – will be surplus to requirement. Mostly. These automated systems still need the information that businesses currently provide on their websites. Business opening hours, ticket availability, discount vouchers, etc. All these things are currently available on the web, and our digital assistants will be unable to make our lives easier if they do not have access to this information.

Where this leaves the web is clear: it will change from a primarily human-facing platform to one where we provide relevant information to machines. Increasingly, our websites will not be meant for human consumption, but serve as data providers to automated platforms.

That means we will need to make our content machine-readable. If we want our website information to be used by these pro-active digital assistants, to provide answers and options for users who might have a requirement for what we offer, we need to make sure the software that drives these assistants can make use of our data.

Using technologies such as Structured Data markup, Accelerated Mobile Pages, XML feeds, and Firebase, we can ensure that our web content is fully accessible and usable for the automated platforms that make up the Internet of Things. The front-end aesthetics of websites will become less important, as the primary users of our websites will no longer have human eyes. Instead, our websites will become data sources for the Internet of Things, where we provide machine-readable information for other platforms to use and re-use as they see fit.

The Industrial Internet of Things won’t destroy the web, but it will be transformed beyond recognition.

Airbags for the Algorithmic Age. #15 #cong16

By Dermot Casey

Science Fiction writer William Gibson said “The future is already here, it’s just not widely distributed.” When you look around you can see the truth of that statement. Most of the technologies that will influence us over the next few decades already exists. In many ways it feels like we're living in parts of that future. We can 3-D print replacement jaws for people. And 3D printing was invented over 30 years ago. In NDRC, where I work, we have companies working on embedded sensors for post operative bleed detection, and working on helping kids with focusing and ADHD problems through neuro-feedback game play. [1]  In many ways technology is enriching our lives. In reality the title of this piece is less 'Our Algorithmic Future' than 'Our Algorithmic Present'.

As a technophile that's very exciting. I have a deep and abiding love of science and the wonderful possibility of technology. I grew up reading Isaac Asimov (his science and his fiction), Arthur C Clarke and Carl Sagan. And watching Star Trek, Tomorrow's World and other optimistic visions of technology and the future.

At the same time there is a darker side to technology. Paul Erlich said “To err is human, to really foul things up requires a computer.” It's not hard to find examples. California released 450 high-risk, violent prisoners, on an unsuspecting public in 2011, due to a mistake in its computer programming. 'We-connect' an app based vibrator which captures the date and time of each use and the selected vibration settings, and transmits the data — along with the users’ personal email address — to its servers in Canada “Unbeknownst to its customers" a number of whom are now suing the company.[2]

And most dark of all is the case of the firing of elementary school teacher Sarah Wysocki by Washington DC Public schools. The school system used "VAR", a Value Added statistical tool to measure a teacher’s direct contribution to students test results. Despite being highly regarded in classroom observations the low score from the algorithm led to her being fired. There was no recourse or appeal. And no way to really understand the working of VAR as they are copyrighted and cannot be viewed.[3]

Computer Says No

There is this abstract notion of what the computer said or what the data tells us. Much as the complex gibberish that underlay the risk models of economists and financial services companies in the run wasn't questions (because maths) the issue here isn’t the algorithms as much as people and their magical thinking.

I came across this quote from IPPN Director Sean Cottrell, in his address to 1,000 primary school Principals at Citywest Hotel in 2011.[4]  He commented

‘Every calf, cow and bull in the State is registered by the Department of Agriculture & Food in the interests of food traceability. Why isn’t the same tracking technology in place to capture the health, education and care needs of every child?’.

Well intentioned as it might be, this shows a poor understanding of cows, a worse understanding technology and dreadful misunderstanding of children and their needs. I find this thinking deeply disturbing, and profoundly creepy so I decided to unpack it a little.

This is how we track cows


And this is how we start that process by tracking calves


And I wondered is this how he'd like to track children? (H/T to @Rowan_Manahan for that last image)


Then I realised that we are already tracking children.


Only its not the Primary Principles Network that doing it, it is private companies doing the tracking and tagging. It is Google and Facebook and Snapchat, with some interesting results and some profound ethical questions. We now know that Instagram photos can reveal predictive markers of depression and that Facebook can influence mood, and peoples purchasing habits.[5]

Our algorithm present is composed of both data and algorithms. We have had an exponential growth of processing capability over the last number of years, which has enabled some really amazing developments in technology. Neural Networks emerged first in the 1950s dimmed in the late 1960's, reemerged in the 1980s and has taken off like wildfire in the last few years.The Neural Network explosion is down to the power, cheapness and availability of GPU's, together with improvements in the algorithms themselves. And Neural Networks are really really good at some kinds of pattern analysis. We are getting to a point where they are helping radiologists spot overlooked small breast cancers. [6]

There is also a very big problem with algorithms. The problem of the Black Box. The proprietary nature of many algorithms and data sets mean that only certain people can look at these algorithms. Worse we are building systems in a way where we don't necessarily understand the internal workings and rules of these systems very well at all.


Black boxes look like this. In many systems we see some of the input and the output. But most is not only hidden its not understood. In a classic machine learning model. We feed in data and apply certain initial algorithms. Then we use it prediction or classification. But we need to be careful of the consequences. As Cathy O'Neill cleverly put it Donal Trump is an object lesson in Bad Machine Learning. Iterate on how crowd reacts to what he says and over optimise for the output – Classic problem of Machine Learning trained on bad data set. We need to think about what the systems we're building are optimising for. [7]

George Box said that “All models are wrong but some are useful.” Korzybski put it more simply “The Map is not the territory.” And its important to remember that an algorithm is a model. And much as the human mind creates fallible biased models we can also construct fallible computer models. Cathy O'Neill put it bluntly that “A model is no more than a formal opinion embedded in code.”  The challenge is that the models are more often than not created by young white males from an upper middle class or upper class background. It is not that human brains are perfect model makers but we spend a long time attempting to build social processes to cope with these biases. The scientific method itself is one of the most powerful tools we've invented to overcome these biases.

As we unleash them on education, (Sarah), Policing (pre-crime in chicago) and health and hiring we need to be aware of the challenges they pose. Suman Deb Roy has pointed out

Algorithmic systems are not a settled science, and fitting it blindly to human bias can leave inequality unchallenged and unexposed.  Machines cannot avoid using data.  But we cannot allow them to discriminate against consumers and citizens. We have to find a path where software biases and unfair impact is comprehended not just in hindsight. This is a new kind of bug. And this time, punting it as ‘an undocumented feature’ could ruin everything. .

Bernard Marr illustrates this with an example

Hiring algorithms. More and more companies are turning to computerized learning systems to filter and hire job applicants, especially for lower wage, service sector jobs. These algorithms may be putting jobs out of reach for some applicants, even though they are qualified and want to work. For example, some of these algorithms have found that, statistically, people with shorter commutes are more likely to stay in a job longer, so the application asks, “How long is your commute?” Applicants who have longer commutes, less reliable transportation (using public transportation instead of their own car, for example) or who haven’t been at their address for very long will be scored lower for the job. Statistically, these considerations may all be accurate, but are they fair? [9].

There is an old saying in tech: "GIGO: Garbage In Garbage Out" the risk now it that this will become BIBO "Bias in and BIAS out"

As we gather vast amounts of data the potential for problems increase. There can be unusual downstream consequences also the opportunity to create perverse incentives. We are embedding sensors in cars, and looking the idea that safer driver will be given better rates. The challenge is that personalised insurance breaks the concept of shared risk pools, and can drive dysfunctional behaviour. Goodhart said “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." We had a significant recent Irish example with crime statistics where the CSO pointed out problems with both the Under-recording by police of crime and the downgrading of a number of reported crimes. [10]

At one level I see our future as a choice between, Iron Man – technology to augment, or Iron Maiden – technology controlled by a few that inflicts damage on the many. Technology to augment or to constrict . Technology  changes that threaten the self also offer ways to strengthen the self, if used wisely and well.


It is clear that technology does not self-police. We could cut off the use of phones in cars using technology – so it can’t be used while driving but the companies doing so currently choose not to do so

In Europe we have our own bill of rights – a charter of fundamental rights enshrined in the Lisbon treaty and it guarantees “Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified.”  This right has been used to challenge the export of data from the EU to the US under the Schrems decision of the European Court of Justice. [11]

My belief is that we need to extend these rights in the algorithmic era. We need to create a “Charter of Algorithmic Rights” For our algorithmic age. Not a Magna Carta  which really just enabled the lords against the king without much for the the peasants. We need algorithmic rights, of the people, by the people and for the people.


Simply put we need airbags for the algorithmic age. For decades cars have safer for men than women because the standard crash test dummy tests on male size standard and biases the development of safety towards the average male. As I said, technology is not self policing. [12]

We are going to have to create better tools. We need to be able to detect, and correct bias and to audit and ensure fairness over a simple move to efficiency. Or else we are tying things together in unforeseeable ways that can have profound consequences at the individual and societal level. Tools such as Value in Design and Thought experiments help. But we need to go much further.

Kate Crawford writing in Nature says

A social-systems analysis could similarly ask whether and when people affected by AI systems get to ask questions about how such systems work. Financial advisers have been historically limited in the ways they can deploy machine learning because clients expect them to unpack and explain all decisions. Yet so far, individuals who are already subjected to determinations resulting from AI have no analogous power..


While this is necessary I don't believe it's sufficient. We need a "Charter of Algorithmic Rights". While looking to the opportunities they can afford we need to recognise the biases and limitation of technology.  What appears to be augmentation may not really be the case. It may restrict and rule rather than enable.

We need to ensure that are tools are creative and reflect the diversity of human experience.

We are better managing them than being managed by them in our algorithmic future.


[1] The companies mentioned are Enterasense and Cortechs

[2] Computer errors allow violent California prisoners to be released unsupervised can be here and the story on the app based vibrator is here.

[3] One link to the Sarah Wysocki story is here for more details read Cathy O'Neills excellent book "Weapons of Math Destruction" or take a look at Cathy's blog.

[4] Original Link was Tweeted by Simon McGarr. The piece is here 

[5] How an Algorithm Learned to Identify Depressed Individuals by Studying Their Instagram Photos  and here. Everything we know about Facebooks mood manipulation  

[6]  Neural Nets  may be so good because they map onto some fundamental principles of physics 

[7] Trump as a bad Machine Learning Algorithm 

[8] Genesis of the Data Drive Bug 

[9] Bernard Marr The 5 Scariest Ways Big Data is Used Today

[10] What is the new Central Statistics Office report on Garda data and why does it matter? and CSO (2016

[11]DRI welcomes landmark data privacy judgement  and  Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner 

[12] Why Carmakers Always Insisted on Male Crash-Test Dummies

[13] There is a blind spot in AI research Kate Crawford& Ryan Calo

The Future of Technology Helps us to Better Understand our Planet #14 #cong16

By Barbara Heneghan.

Technology is constantly evolving and opening up new worlds of possibility. We can explore the world in many ways that it hasn't been possible to explore the world before. We can now explore and experience the world through an array of virtual worlds which enable us to travel in cyberspace and see the greatest depths of the ocean, the outer most regions of space, molecular structures within plant, animal and human bodies.

Despite all the continuing advances in technology it is amazing that our survival as a race in 'The Real World' still depends on such basic needs as water, nature and wild plants.

Each evolution of technology also gives us the keys to understand our past and our future evolution.

While technology becomes more sophisticated and robust, our planet and its history is becoming more fragile. The development of aerial drones and GPS technology allows archaeologists to survey sites leaving them intact and gathering vast amounts of data.

It was famously written by George Santayana 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' Although it seems to be a sad condition of human affairs that wars will still rage and famines will result, technology at least gives us the opportunity to learn from our past and to prepare for our future.

The use of technology in epigenetic studies has helped us to understand that the effects of famine can last in the genes for up to nine generations giving us greater understanding of our inherited conditioning.

As we accept that we cannot prevent war, we can mitigate the effects of it with forward planning.  On the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen the Norwegian government have entirely funded a seed bank known as a “Doomsday Vault” . The vault is located about 800 miles from the north pole.  The purpose of this seed bank is to act as a back up to the approximated 1700 seed banks around the world. These seed banks try to protect the natural seeds of countries from natural disasters and war ensuring that no plants become extinct. Worldwide many of these seed banks have been destroyed by flooding and fires. The Norwegian seed bank has been able to ensure no country loses its native plants. Each country in the world owns a vault in which they submit their seeds, for 80 years these seeds have remained secure. In 2015 scientists had been working on developing wheat, bean and pulse plants that were resistant to high heat. This project had been running for 10 years in Aleppo in Syria, unfortunately due to war their seed bank had been destroyed, scientists had no choice but to remove some of their seeds from the doomsday vault and continue their research in nearby Morocco.

Without technology projects like the Norwegian seed bank would not exist, without technology we would not have this increased need to connect to nature to balance us. 

As a forager living in north Mayo I hope the future of technology allows us to find new ways to work, live and play that protect this delicate planet rather than destroy its natural resources.

That Internet thing will never catch on. #13 #cong16

By Ailish Irvine.

In about 1979 I sat in a rural national school in Co-Mayo and read a piece about the future of education. The article promised a kind of utopia by the year 2000.  It said in the future children would be at home learning on a computer and a teacher would randomly check in with them to see how they were doing.   I looked at my fairisle jumper and my wallpaper covered books and thought, “Yeah right, like that’s going to happen”

In 2002 I remember the day I first heard the term’ The Internet and The World Wide Web.’ ‘Can’t see the point of it really,’ I thought. “That internet thing will never catch on.”

The truth is the Internet has opened up a world of opportunities to us, irrespective of our location, economic status,  educational background or age. We went from a system that taught us compliance and how to follow orders that didn’t ever adapt at the same pace as emerging technologies or societal changes. A system that assumes that because we are a particular age, our ability should be exactly the same as everyone else our age.  If we are a certain gender, then we should have certain interests and career paths that are suited to that.

So with the emergence of online learning platforms like, Khan academy, and MOOC’s  anyone can get access to knowledge, a currency that hasn’t quite floated on a stock exchange. Anyone with access to a computer can teach themselves anything. Some schools in the US have recognised this by teaching the flipped classroom model. Do the learning at home and the practise in school.

Traditionally our  education systems taught us compliance. We were taught to respect our learned elders and we were also taught to look for solutions in certain places.

The harsh realities that I have learned in life are. Things fall apart. People need to pick themselves up and keep moving. They need to stay ahead of the game and try and anticipate the way that they can remain most competitive. They need to remain relevant. They need to know that there is no such thing anymore as a job for life. They need to know that a machine may replace them someday.

We need to facilitate people to deal with change and to be great leaders, we need to give people the freedom to come up with solutions and the permission to be great (and the permission to fail). We need to teach the child who won’t stop talking in class (because they are bored) that the ability to talk to people later in life will be a worthy and useful skill.

We need to focus on our strengths and not our weaknesses. School teaches you to try and focus on what you are not good at and keep banging your head off a brick wall until you master it. I believe our focus should be more on studying what we are good at and what we love doing.

We need to celebrate diversity and difference and accept that we don’t have all the answers. We should learn to collaborate and try not to be an expert and realise that combined we can come up with solutions.

So  What are the jobs of the future? We hear about augmented reality, virtual reality,mlearning, genetic modification,  growing body parts, printing body parts, and artificial intelligence,  Robots may clean our houses (please hurry and make that a reality).  There are terms like #edtech ,#medtech  #fintech and many more that haven’t been invented yet. So how do we educate our children for jobs that don’t exist?

So if people can basically teach themselves anything online, what cannot be taught by a piece of technology?  Well it can’t teach manners, kindness, decency, respect or empathy. (I think)

The best lessons that I learned in life were from teachers who supported, encouraged, cajoled and praised me. The ones who told me I could stand up in front of a crowd if I was brave. The ones who told me that my essay was funny and my view of the world was different. Some told me I had good ideas and some told me that I was good enough. Others told me that I had a voice and that I should use it. They are the things that I try to pass onto others when I teach.

I don’t know if we can teach resilience yet or coping with failure or bounce backabiity.

We need to teach people that it’s their own responsibility to solve social issues and to look for solutions. We also need to know that we are capable of greatness. We are all original and we should embrace that and embrace our original thought.

In a thoroughly enjoyable TED talk Adam Grant discusses the delightful sweet spot where original thought happens. The good news folks is that original thinkers live somewhere in the middle , they are not highly organised , nor are they dreadful procrastinators, they are however procrastinators.  He also discusses the process of developing a good idea and makes the distinction between self doubt and idea doubt. The former not being useful and the later being essential to innovation.

We can learn therefore that key skills for the future are to know that we can exist outside of a traditional school curriculum.

We can come up with good ideas and crap ones.

We don’t need money to get a good education.

We don’t have all the answers.

We can have an idea and find help online to develop it without leaving the couch.

We can return to learning at any stage.

If there is no one else solving our problems, then perhaps we should solve them ourselves.

Now that’s a message that we need to teach for the future.

So if you are a procrastinator, get in touch , you could be the next best original thinker. If you are a chatterbox, you will have a wonderful network when you are older.  The future is bright.

Your Overnight Success will be 10 Years in the Making + 10 Innovation Tips for the Long Term #12 #cong16

By Cronan McNamara.

We were promised flying cars and instead all we got was the entire planet communicating instantly via pocket sized supercomputers! 

This is paraphrasing from Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz's blog post and which is response to Peter Theil's of Founder Fund's complaint that "We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters".

Some commentators have decried the lack of real innovation taking place in Silicon Valley in recent times, complaining that companies are focused on trivial products such as instant messaging and social networking apps.

Under the veneer of the “trivial” high-profile web and mobile app companies, incredible and relentless increases in computing hardware performance (processing power, storage, battery life, screen resolution, networking) are continuing. 

When you compound the technology advances based on Moore’s law over a 10 year horizon, applications, and products become possible that would have been simply unimaginable a mere decade ago. We are not used to this pace of progress in more traditional industries. 

Bill Gates famously joked that if “If GM had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon". (GM’s response to that was equally amusing, cars shutting down and needing to be rebooted on the highway, etc…)

Despite the heavy lifting being done by hardware innovation, it is actually software companies (like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, et al.) that tend exploit the new capabilities to extract the majority of the value from the market, while at the same time hardware becomes more and more commoditized. Tom Foremski goes as far as saying that “Hardware Is King, Software Is A Spoilt Brat Grown Fat Suckling On The Teats Of Chip Industry Innovation” (Apple is one company to buck this trend, so far).

I would argue therefore that we should not get too distracted by the short term. Bill Gates also said that "Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years". 

This is why, I believe, scale up companies who can survive the 10 year horizon can start to achieve something really special. Gradual progress that doesn’t seem to be too explosive on a day-to-day basis, when compounded over 10 years, can be extremely impressive.

Founders and management teams take time to mature - developing the leadership and management skills. The very skills needed to create a team that is capable of not only surviving but thriving in the global marketplace.

As a company grows, resources increase and new and even more exciting R&D and innovation projects become possible. 

The company I founded, Creme Global, is eleven years in business this year and I see this as phase two of the company. I have followed the philosophy (tips) below, investing heavily in R&D (67% of turnover invested in R&D in 2015) over the years resulting in the development of a modular and extensible data science platform called Expert Models. 

Expert Models is now a truly world-class technology platform which will deliver value to the company and our clients for many years to come. 

Here my top 10 tips for founders of technology companies on disruptive innovation for the medium term:

  1. Avoid investors if at all possible, or at least those who are in it for the short term.
  2. Jeff Bezos has said: invent on behalf of your consumers and think about the things that are not going to change in the next 10 years (e.g. customers will always want low price, fast delivery and a vast selection to chose from). Focus on the things that won’t change over a 10+ year time horizon. 
  3. Develop a vision for your company that you truly believe in and that inspires you. Evaluate every opportunity, tactic and strategy for your organisation against that vision. Is this vision something your organisation can be truly world class at? Explain that vision to your team and to anyone who will listen. Constantly seek feedback that supports or challenges that vision and evaluate it honestly. 
  4. Stay open to inspiration - follow people, technologies, products and companies that inspire you, use lessons from these to identify and seek out opportunities and strategies for your organisation. 
  5. Build a strong team around you so that you can free up some of your time for exploratory work, vision and strategy development and blue sky thinking. Free up time to work on the the organisation rather than in it. 
  6. Invest in R&D, engage with R&D funding opportunities such as Enterprise Ireland and H2020 research grants. The core goal of the funds being generated by the company during scale-up should be to reinvest in R&D until the company finds strong product-market fit with a truly scalable and global opportunity.
  7. Try to be modular in your R&D so that the fundamental building blocks you develop can be applied to various opportunities that you may have not foreseen yet - i.e. build a platform technology.
  8. Focus your technology on one or two key niches where you can compete immediately (e.g. you have the network, track record, less competitive landscape, etc…) and use that to win business that can fund the future development of your technology and product(s).
  9. Build your commercial network and sales resources - so that when you develop the right product or service, you are in a strong position to ramp up business development and exploit it. Try to build network effects into your product or service to make competition meaningless. 
  10. After that a reproducible, scalable sales process needs to be created and once in place - major funds should be directed your sales effort and building out your sales team.

So that’s it, simple as that!

To summarise, the main lessons for me is are stay in business, keep abreast of technology development and seek new opportunities that align with your vision and continuously build them into your strategy. This can lead to significant success over 10 years that you could hardly have imagined at the beginning.

Sometimes art imitates life and other times life imitates art - so always use your imagination to see a better future and work hard to invent on behalf of your customers to build it. And with the Human-carrying drone debuting at CES (Jan, 2016), we actually have flying cars now!

It is hard to predict the future, but as Alan Kay and others have stated: “the best way to predict the future is to invent it” - so in these disruptive times, your best opportunity for stability is to be disruptive.

Towards a more Sympathetic Future - Thoughts on the Humanisation of Society through Digital Technology #11 #cong16

By Damian Costello.

As a society our next big challenge is to humanise the next wave of technology, the digitisation of everything. As the next wave of technology will impact every facet of life, what we are actually challenged with is the humanisation of society itself.

Technology is like most things on this planet amoral, it does not decide if it's used for good or evil. Technology in the past has been used to protect and enrich the elite. In society today technology does a lot of evil, hides a lot of evil and rewards a lot of evil. But something very fundamental is happening in the world. We are about to enter a post-technological age and for me the prospects are brighter now than during any technological transformation in the past.

When I first read James Surowiecki's book "The Wisdom of Crowds" more than ten years ago I didn't get it. I was in a transition at that time from industrial designer to innovation professional. I believed in a more 'intelligent designer' theory of technological evolution than I do now. Filled with a sense of my own and my profession's invincibility, I thought crowd sourcing was what companies did when they didn't understand innovation and couldn't generate their own ideas. 

But now I think I get it a bit more. I am currently transfixed by the American Presidential Race 2016 and in particular with Donald Trump. As with Brexit and the election of a minority government in Ireland, people have a visceral, if not intellectual understanding that the system by which society organises itself is out of date. In the absence of a credible ‘good’ alternative, more and more are voting against the ‘bad’. 

This is the understandable dynamic that emerges at the start of any transformation. 

We have raised this infamous Generation Y to live in a new, fairer, more collaborative reality that does not yet exist - we need them to help us build it. We taught them to be cynical, vigilant, trusting, moralistic, collaborative, perfectionist, and demanding of instant results. We taught them that they were all special (everyone got a medal) and while some of us see this as a weakness, the very fact that we had the foresight as a society to allow the concept of winners to be undermined, in turn devalues the concept of losers and its related stigma. Released from the tyranny of ‘them and us’ thinking, subsequent generations are free to treat every opportunity on its own merits and volunteer the energy needed to make it work in a way we do not.

In the face of a generation built for a more egalitarian existence and a generation fed up of an authoritarian past, the seismic disruption caused by digital technology creates a unique opportunity to make society better. For the first time in history technology has the power and granularity to morph and self-organise to fit people's lives rather than have people forced into boxes defined by the limitations of previous forms of technology. 

Agriculture made people slaves to the seasons. The industrial revolution made people slaves to the clock. Globalisation (and smartphones) made people slaves to a 24/7 virtual world. Digital technology as evidenced by social media, big data and the internet of things will be capable of treating every individual as an individual. It will create work opportunities that match people's attitudes, moods and interests to satisfying tasks that get the very best out of them. The capabilities and scalability of today's social media platforms will soon grow up into ‘Social Occupation Platforms’ to coin a phrase. 

This potential for the humanisation of works is not yet a given, but if society moves from being organised as a command and control pyramid structure to a more self-organised, network model, more and more ordinary people will be empowered to define their own reality. Society will then have an opportunity to carve out a new narrative, one where a greater proportion of the population will enjoy justice, prosperity and self-fulfilment.

How it will all work and when it will happen is up to the wisdom of the crowds. My expectation is that the energy behind today’s protest votes will turn into a movement for the betterment of humanity. 

It has to work out that way doesn't it, because the Zombie Apocalypse alternative doesn't suit me at all.

Trust is the Future of Marketing #10 #cong16

By Louis Grenier

Imagine this.

Its 9pm. You’re watching TV on your sofa. You hear a knock on the door. You aren’t expecting anybody. You open the door: it’s a man with a raincoat and a weird hat. He’s scary looking.

He’s holding a box. Inside the box there’s a big red button. He tells you: “I’ll give you €1,000 right now if you press this button.”

He then continues: “If you press this button, somewhere far away, someone you don’t know, will die.”

He then gives you the box and leaves.

You’re thinking about this all night. You need the €1,000 but you don’t want to kill someone. On the other hand, it’s someone you don’t know who lives on the other side of the World so it doesn’t affect you at all.

It’s 7am in the morning and you can’t sleep. You decide to press the button. And then nothing.

Until you hear a knock on the door. It’s the man with the raincoat and the weird hat. He tells you: “Here’s your €1,000 as promised, please give me the box back.”.

You do as he says and he promptly leaves. You decide to stop him and ask: “Hold on a second. What now? What happens now?”.

“Well, he says, I’m going to give the box to someone far away, someone you don’t know.”

And then it hits you. You could die next!

# Allegory

This story is an allegory for today’s marketing.

Would you have taken the €1,000 if the man had asked you to kill someone with your bare hands?

It’s unlikely (unless you’re a psychopath).

The lack of emotional connection between you and this person you don’t know who lives far away makes you do something you never thought you would do: kill someone.

# Today’s marketing

This story is an allegory for today’s marketing.

We, marketers, interrupt people with aggressive online popups, spammy emails, or annoying ads.

We pollute the Internet with blend content or bad stock photos.

We trick or lie to people with confusing wording, clickbait articles and dark patterns.

We do this because we tend to forget that there are people behind every screen. That the traffic coming to our website is in fact made of people just like you and me.

We wouldn’t interrupt people on the street to sell our stuff. Yet, we do it online everyday.

## Trust is the future of marketing

Instead of chasing short-term gains like reaching our next quarter targets or making even more money, I believe that the future of marketing lies in one word: trust.

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer (

- 48% of people who distrust a company refused to buy their products/services,

- and 42% of people who distrust a company openly critized it.


- 68% of people who trust a company chose to buy their products/services,

- 59% recommended it to a friend or a family member,

- and 41% shared positive opinions online.

Money isn’t the currency, trust is.

# Focusing on trust

There a few ways to build trust.

- Caring for people and understanding them: We need to spend the time to understand people (customers and employees alike) so we can provide them with what they need.

- Fighting the good fight and standing up for something: Yes, focusing on generating money is important, but contributing to the greater good is also something worth considering.

- Being authentic: Avoid bad stock photos or jargon and focus on being yourself.

- And, the most obvious, selling great products/services: In the future, people will choose which companies to listen to and to buy from. Marketers won’t have much to say in the matter. If the products you sell are not good enough, people will never buy from you again. It will be even more difficult to survive.

So, what will you choose: money or trust?q

“Tomorrow belongs to those that hear it coming” #9 #cong16

By Noreen Henry.

“Tomorrow belongs to those that hear it coming” – Bowie

Futurist Gerd Leonhard predicts that humanity will change more in the next 20 years than in the previous 300 years.  In his talk titled “The future of content, technology and society” Leonhard identifies the following technologies available today that will shape our future:

  1. Human Longevity Inc. has a goal to extend and enhance the healthy, high-performance lifespan and change the face of aging.

They are reported to be 15 years away from an anti-aging solution!

  1. The D Wave is a quantum computing company. It is 1 million times the power of the fastest commercially available computer today

Now owned by google!

  1. Microsoft HaloLens - is the first fully self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to interact with high definition holograms in your world.

Bringing holograms into everyday life. 

  1. Viv is an artificial intelligence platform that enables developers to distribute their products through an intelligent, conversational interface. It’s the simplest way for the world to interact with devices, services and things everywhere. Viv is taught by the world, knows more than it is taught, and learns every day.

Viv breaths live into inanimate objects and devices through conversation!

  1. The Grid – Artificial Intelligence websites that designs themselves.

Yellow Conference is a website created by The Grid.

  1.  IBM Watson is a technology that understands all forms of data and reasons and learns at scale.  It uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.

Allows you to find answers and insights locked away in large volumes of data in order to derive value form the data.  It reasons similarly to a human.

Connectidy – the dating app for evolved people. Connectidy’s advanced technology, powered by IBM Watson and fueled by the Prescripto Engine, uses cognitive computing to deliver objective personality insights and cultivate emotional intelligence. By helping people achieve a deeper understanding of themselves, Connectidy empowers them to make smarter choices and, ultimately, improves their chances of meeting that special someone.

Try it out, visualise your personality data!

In the 2015 article titled “Replacing Middle Management with APIs”, the author Peter Reinhardt identified a trend to create a software layer in industries that were traditionally human services for example Uber is a software layer in the taxi industry.  It is expected that the software layer will thicken, automating routine jobs and making people obsolete for certain roles. 


Forbes - Google Cabs And Uber Bots Will Challenge Jobs 'Below The API'

Similarly, Gerd Leonhard identifies 9 “ations” that will transform our societies and enterprises

  1. Digitization
  2. Mobilisation
  3. Screenification
  4. Automation
  5. Intelligization
  6. Virtualization
  7. Anticipation
  8. Augmentation
  9. Robotisation

Both Reinhardt & Leonhard agree that routine, repetitive task oriented jobs of today will be digitized and automated therefore eliminating many existing jobs.  Anything that can be digitized and automated will be.  Anything that cannot be digitized and automated will be very valuable, i.e., creativity, feelings, emotions, empathy, compassion, negotiation, understanding, design – these are the things that make us human beings.  


The Human Imperative

© Eoin Kennedy 2016 eoin at congregation dot ie