Analogue leadership in a digital world

View of an Intern

View of an Intern

From our Intern Jacquie Crock

For as long I can remember I have never truly understood what Intersticia is.  I knew that Mum had a friend called Anni, and they would travel around the world and do interesting things.  But I never knew they had a purpose, a common goal and motive that lead them to what Intersticia is today.  As one of the newest members of the Intersticia community, joining in the historic year of 2020, my questions were finally answered.

The first thing I realised was that Intersticia is not a workplace, rather a community of like-minded individuals working together for the future.

Some of my first work was with the new “Brave Conversation” podcasts, a brilliant idea to better know each member of the Intersticia community.  As a kid, still in school, hearing about people literally studying Martian matter, and working in innovative fields from sustainable energy to aid in humanitarian crises to tech and the arts, I found it quite overwhelming to be part of such an incredible group.  However, it only took me a short while to understand that there is not a single member of this community that would ever put themselves on a pedestal.  Of the people I have met this year, each have been incredibly articulate and genuinely kind people, and overwhelmingly intelligent all the same!

Another aspect of Intersticia that, rather excited me, was the mechanisms deployed to ensure sustainable work practices.

As soon as I joined my first Zoom meeting I was refreshed to experience people working through future based concepts, ideas that will benefit the international community, not only for themselves but for generations to come.  Relating to this idea, I immediately noticed how generous the Intersticia community is.  This year has forced us to live online, and although it has had its disadvantages, meeting via zoom and communicating online has lead me to meet so many incredible people.

I am completing my final years in high school and was asked to present a twenty minute presentation on the Gaza Strip, in a brief conversation I mentioned this to Anni, and within hours I was put in touch with an incredibly generous woman who not only took the time to email me and send me articles, but who gave me an hour out of her day to meet with me.  This was one of my first experiences with the generosity this community contains and certainly won’t be my last.

After meeting with a collection of people in 2020, I was grateful to learn that even in times of crisis people can still practice things that they value. This image above depicts Palestinians in Gaza practicing music (Pre-Covid). Those in Gaza are resilient and spirited, and that even though they face some of the most prominent challenges of this century, that they are still able to celebrate life.

Unlike friends of mine, who spend hours stacking shelves or working in shops, the time I spend working is educational and truly beneficial for my future. I have had the opportunity to listen in on workshops and meetings and have learnt so much.  The social depth that humanity is facing with the rise of technology and globalisation is unlike any other time.  Hearing about what these new advancements mean and how to face them has been inspirational and hopeful, knowing about these concepts now has prepared me for the future, however difficult and inconspicuous it will be.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be Intersticia’s newest Intern and look forward to meeting more of you in the future!

Intersticia’s 2020 Year in Review

Intersticia’s 2020 Year in Review

There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.  (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin)

“May you live in interesting times” is an English expression that is claimed to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse

2020 has certainly been interesting.

As we have all been hunkered down in our respective homes around the world locked up in various level of Covid tier we have connected as never before, created new ways of supporting our Fellows and others with whom we work, and truly begun to embrace the world of digital media that has been at the core of our beliefs about what is needed for 21st Century Leadership.

Intersticia exists to develop and promote digital fluency and develop smarter humans in terms of how we proactively create, manage, harness and utilise digital technologies.

We do this primarily through the following activities:

  • We identify, support, nurture and encourage individuals through our Scholarships and Fellowships
  • We work with like-minded partner organisations to support entrepreneurship and innovation
  • We hold public events with a specific aim of promoting conversations and building skills in digital literacy and leadership

In the 2019 – 2020 year we built on the foundations that were laid in our first couple of years of existence and, powered by the opportunities afforded by the Pandemic, we have been busier than ever.  At the end of 2019 I felt that we were completing the work of our first Horizon, developing our Fellowship; clarifying who we are, what we do and how we do it, and creating our partnerships.

As we embark upon 2021 our second Horizon is becoming clearer.

Identify, support, nurture and encourage individuals through our Scholarships and Fellowships

From the outset Intersticia has sought to identify and support emerging leaders who are a little different, are prepared to take risks, are generous of spirit and have a deeply ingrained need to make the world a better place.  I am often asked how we find our Fellows and those we choose to support.

The first filter is through our values which are those of authenticity, integrity, persistence, courage and grace.  We look for these in how people approach us, how they present themselves, how they interact with the world and the sorts of things they value in life.  These are what drive those of our current Fellowship and manifest in how they demonstrate their individual leadership.

The second is our belief that Intersticia is a community.  We are not a leadership development or training organisation, nor are we a Charity that ‘sets and forgets’.  Our intention is to recruit and embrace individuals who will contribute to and expand the work that we do both individually and collectively, and as a group collaborate to bring about positive change.

The third is the filter of need.  There are many who apply for our support who come with worthy ideas that many other organisations will see merit in, and we often encourage them to find those organisations.  As a small organisation our interest is in those people who often fall through the cracks, who often straddle multiple disciplines and who don’t fit neatly in to one category or another.  These people provide the hidden connections which we see of great value.

We now have 21 people we have supported through Scholarships and Bursaries and of these 19 have been made Fellows (see https://intersticia.org/fellows/).

However, bringing people in to our Fellowship is just the beginning, and one thing that our work thus far has demonstrated is that it is not broadening our reach which is important, but deepening our connection and strengthening our impact.  Of those we support some choose to continue being a part of, and contributing to, our community, others choose not to, which is their choice.

For those who stay with us there are four main areas that we have begun to focus on:

  1. helping our Fellows develop their own Authenticity as emerging 21st Century Leaders
  2. creating our Fellowship as a Community that shares experiences and learning
  3. supporting our Fellows to find their Voice in the stories they tell and work that they do
  4. harvesting these factors to build a collective Resilience in their work and individual lives

This year we have not been able to come together as a group physically but we held our 2020 Retreat online and appended this with Small Group sessions which continue in to 2021.

We have embarked upon a series of Intersticia Brave Conversations interviews with each of our Fellows produced online and available throughout the community.  As a complement to this we have begun working with our Fellow Jess Chambers in her professional capacity as a Voice Coach to give all within our community additional skills in how they present themselves publicly.

Finally we have expanded our group of Advisors with the contribution of key individuals who are willing to help and support our Fellowship group.  These people have been incredibly generous with their time, energy and enthusiasm – without them we couldn’t do all that we do.

Work with like-minded partner organisations to support entrepreneurship and innovation

We also could not do the work that we do without leveraging the partnerships that we have, in particular Goodenough College, the Web Science Trust, Founders and Coders (FAC) and Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG).  It is through these organisations that we have been able to find new opportunities and innovative projects.

Our support of the Founders Programme began our formal partnership with both FAC and GSG and has resulted in three cohorts of Founders from both London and Palestine, and our first cohort of Founders (Joe Friel, Simon Dupree and Ramy Shufara) has created the first spin out in Yalla, “a Web Design and Development agency which helps non-profits and impact-driven businesses drive positive social change in the tech sphere”.

In 2021 we aim to take this to the next level through the development of a pilot Apprenticeship Programme with Yalla employing two Gaza Code Academy Graduates.

Hold public events with a specific aim of promoting conversations and building skills in digital literacy and leadership

From the outset Intersticia has sought to operate within the interstice between society, culture and technology, the space of the Social Machine.

Our flagship activity is our Brave Conversations events which seek to educate the general public about the Social Machine and act as an Outreach activity for academic research of Web Science.  We have now held events around the world, and, with the opportunity afforded by Covid in 2020, online.

Our plan for 2021 is to build on these foundations to further expand the footprint encouraging a greater partnership with the Web Science Trust and its network of Web Science Labs, beginning with our second event hosted by IIIT Bangalore in February 2021.  We will also be an integral part of the 2021 Web Science Conference to be held online in June 2021 and intend to integrate content from the Web Science Untangling the Web podcasts in to our activities.

All of our events are listed below and on the Brave Conversations website.

2020 Brave Conversations Kav Mashve
2020 Brave Conversations Arabic/English
2020 Brave Conversations Southampton Online
2020 Brave Conversations Gaza
2020 Brave Conversations Bangalore
2019 Brave Conversations London
2019 Brave Conversations Boston
2019 Brave Conversations Melbourne
2018 Brave Conversations Kingston
2018 Brave Conversations London
2018 Brave Conversations at the World Government Summit Dubai
2017 Brave Conversations Canberra
2011 Metalounge

Digital Gymnasia Series

In a ‘normal’ year we would usually hold a series of workshops at Goodenough College to promote digital literacy and digital skills to current students of the College.  Given the restrictions on travel we have instead now developed our Digital Gymnasia Series which has been delivered throughout 2020 to students and Alumni of the College around the world. In 2020 we developed and delivered eight workshops which attracted between 20 – 30 attendees each time.  In 2021 we will be delivering an additional four Gymnasia to the Goodenough community in 2021 on the topics of Building Digital Brands, Demystifying AI, Facilitating Online and Digital Governance.  All of these are now being recorded to be made available online to the general public, especially the Boards of Charities and Not-for Profit organisations.

Conclusion

2020 has taught us the value of our networks and connections, whether they be IRL (in real life) or via the virtual medium.  What I have found is that whilst I have been ‘grounded’ in my physical space here up on Pittwater and have connected more frequently with my local neighbours and community, I have been much more active with a broader range of people around the World and my Global community.  I have spoken to my family and friends more often, I have held more meetings and I have been more productive than I have ever been.  Through this I believe we have been given the opportunity to deepen our relationships this year, particularly with our Fellows and Advisors, who have all brought their personal experiences and challenges of negotiating and navigating through 2020 and shared without hesitation.

We have been given the opportunity to slow down and consolidate rather than madly race around looking for new adventures and shiny new distractions, and for that I am extremely grateful.

So what comes next?  We have talked about our planned 2021 Retreat in Devon and following that we plan to take our Fellows to walk through the Sinai Desert led by our Advisor Louise Sibley.  These face to face activities where we don’t have to rely on words but can commune as a group of humans physically together are now more important than ever.  As are our ongoing Brave Conversations events where we ask our Fellows to share their thoughts about the work they are doing and perhaps the theme for 2021 may be “Brave Conversations Unplugging” as the World gradually unfreezes from it’s Pandemic state (thanks to Sam Crock for that idea).

More on that to come!

We need a new Leadership for the 21st Century

We need a new Leadership for the 21st Century

The Allegory of Plato’s Cave – a powerful lens with which to view our 21st Century Leaders

2020 has shown us that the challenges of the 21st Century are global ones which we all share.  We must learn now how to balance the needs of the ‘me’ with the ‘we’ to collectively change things for the better.

It was just two weeks ago that I was swimming in my favourite pool in North Sydney looking up at the Restaurant above and thinking how incredibly lucky we in Australia have been in 2020, but also having niggling feeling that we are so out of sync with the rest of the world that that luck may well run out.  We have had numerous outbreaks of the Covid 19 virus which have been fairly rapidly squashed and the state of Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, has had a pretty torrid time with the harshest lockdown in the world.  But our lifestyle had begun to bounce back.

Until last week when we had a reality check with the discovery of two mystery Covid cases found in Avalon, a mere 5 km from where I live, which has now spread sending Governments around the country in to panic mode accompanied by a plethora of conspiracy theories.  For those of us living in what is affectionately called the ‘insular Peninsula’ we joined the majority of people on the planet in a locked down Christmas and now New Year.

I don’t envy any of our leaders as they struggle to cope with the rapidly changing situation that the Pandemic presents, not wanting to over-react as the “Festive” season approaches, but as a result creating additional anxiety and frustration with a lack of clear messaging  similar to the first few months of 2o2o when the old world disappeared and the new “Covid” normal began to appear.

For Australia and New Zealand much of the strategy has been to aim for “0” as the optimum Covid number, with the only weak links being returning overseas travellers, diplomats and cabin crew. We have been largely successful and our particular response reflects a blend of our Convict Colony roots combined with the Tyranny of Distance.  We are good at locking people up down here.  But “0” is the most dangerous number and is totally unsustainable.

Governments around the world are now firmly driving the agenda when it comes to responding to the Pandemic, with varying degrees of success.  One way of viewing this is to consider our Governments as Social Machines, huge socio-technical systems that bring together the cultural, political and technical characteristics of polities as expressed through policies, rules and regulations.

Years ago we undertook a research project with the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and the Web Science Institute on this very concept (see Government as a Social Machine) exploring the co-evolution of the policy and online communications spaces as Governments embraced digital media.   Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Dr Kieron O’Hara have further developed this idea with their Four Internets describing how geopolitics is splintering the once integrated global online infrastructure determined by “Four ideologies … because they have been adopted by state-level actors with the resources to push their visions, fund the science behind them and, crucially, “sell” them to allies.” (Wendy Hall)

To me this is the contemporary demonstration of Francis Fukuyama’s Origins of Political Order connecting all political action as a manifestation of long cultural histories and value systems.  Now, catapulted by the Pandemic, global Governments are beginning to embrace the next phase of how we govern ourselves with the combination of culture, the polity and technology – the ultimate Social Machine.

Not long ago the mantra in the public sphere was to ‘wind back’ our bloated, bureaucratic and big governments in order to embrace market forces and be more ‘customer focused’.  I have always felt that calling citizens ‘customers’ was an insult, together with adopting many of the ideas of managerialism where the bottom line trumped actually serving the public.  The pendulum has now swung back to where people are relying on and giving greater trust to their governments to guide us through the Covid-era, and these governments are working feverishly to learn how to utilise the tools of digital information systems to more effectively collect, harvest and analyse data in their fight against the disease.  These twin propellers are, as Yuval Noah Harari states

fast-forwarding historical processes (and)… Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments.

As Professor Dame Wendy Hall says we now desperately need to create a new social contract between citizens and our Government Social Machines, but, more than that, we need to reframe how we see our leaders and what leadership in the 21st Century needs to  look like as we embrace these global problems.

Up until now the dominant thinking throughout Western societies has been based on “it’s all about Me”, beautifully articulated in the documentary the Century of the Self.  This is a mindset that has caused us to exploit each other and our environment for short term gain.  As we learn how intimately connected we are and how much we depend on that global connection we desperately need a new type of thinking based on our interdependence and this needs to be reflected in the stories we tell.

The power of truth in storytelling

What is most important is to understand that politics and leadership is all about storytelling and how those we choose to serve in positions of power see the world.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (see also) tells the story of people imprisoned in a cave watching shadows on a wall which they take to be their reality.  One of their number manages to escape and ventures outside in to the sunshine of the outside and realises that there are different truths to true what is being presented in the Cave.  The escapee returns to the cave but no one of those still trapped inside believes these weird stories about light and sunshine and the natural world.  Plato talks about the role of philosophers and politicians as being those to manage to escape to consider alternative realities and dream of different futures, but all too often the philosophers are ridiculed whilst the politicians use the situation to their own advantage.  The glaring example of this is the use of political spin and manipulation in how election campaigns are run, the Social Media Caves which now provide most people with their news and daily updates, all of which are being filtered by the algorithmic shadows driven by unfettered and unchecked capitalist objectives.

We humans are story telling animals and our very sense of self comes from the stories we are told and what others tell us.  It may well be that the modern day equivalent of huddling around the camp fire is that we now huddle around our computer screens, especially now so many of our interactions are limited to being online.

It is the politicians and philosophers who tell the best stories who have the greatest impact, and now more than ever we need these stories to be about hope for the future. 

In this interview with Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Yuval Noah Harari talks about the power of stories and the need for leaders to believe in the stories they tell.  Throughout history these stories have been driven by religious beliefs, playing on deeply held concepts of good and evil which have ensured that those in power keep control of the unruly masses, a theory beautifully expanded upon by Rutger Bregman in his book Human Kind and Rebecca Solnit’s Paradise Built in Hell and further developed by Joseph Henrich in his description of the West and our WEIRD way of thinking.

The Covid Pandemic is not a story, it is all too real, but how each and every one of us responds to it is determined by the stories we hear, how we retell those stories, and how each one of us uses our ability to filter fact from the fiction, recognise our inbuilt biases towards the negative and forge a path towards something more positive and hopeful.

As never before our leaders from all walks of life don’t want to deliver bad news, but they need to deliver real news and deliver it responsibly in a way that validates the trust that has been given to them, not just by their own citizens, but by the global collective.  Just like Climate Change the Virus doesn’t recognise state borders or festive holidays, and it will seep through even the best quarantine systems.

The rollercoaster of the Covid year has left us all with increased levels of anxiety and frustration as we continue on in to the unknown.  For me whilst I am not religious I have found that recognising the difference between what I can and cannot control or change has been what has kept me going.  and what I cannot has been a powerful lens with which to cope, articulated in the Serenity Prayer.

‘God’ grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference. 
(The Serenity Prayer)

One of the things we can all control is which stories we listen to and which we don’t, and how we choose to interpret them.  A true 21st Century Leader will recognise this and become a master at storytelling, not for personal gain or political expediency, but for engendering hope.

 

Brave Conversations in the AnthroPause

Brave Conversations in the AnthroPause

In May last year I wrote about how Brave Conversations was increasing its global reach as we ventured to London England, Kingston Jamaica, Melbourne Australia, Boston USA, and a second event in London in 2019.  In 2020 we began to extend that reach working in countries where English is not the first language with our first event in Gaza Palestine in partnership with the Gaza Sky Geeks Code Academy and then in Bangalore India in partnership with the Web Science Lab at IIIT Bangalore.

From there our plan was to go to Haifa Israel in June 2020 for an event in partnership with Kav Mashve’s Coding Bootcamp before returning to work with GSG in Gaza.  Then it was back to the UK for the annual Web Science Conference hosted by the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton.

But, as with everything during the AnthroPause, Covid19 stepped in and the world for all of us has changed.

There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.  (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin)

Up until now our events have largely been held in the real world because we felt that this was where most people lived their everyday lives and felt most comfortable.  We have always wanted our focus to be on the human-to-human interactions unmediated by screens, time lags, internet outages or clumsy buttons understanding that as humans we predominantly live in the physical world impacted by socio-cultural and political environments.

This has meant that when we were in Boston President Trump had just issued his first Veto striking down a Senate resolution to end his national emergency declaration to build a border wall; in London 2019 we were embedded by the vicissitudes of BrExit; in Gaza 2020 we were influenced by Trump’s Deal of the Century and Israel’s impending Annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley; and in Bangalore 2020 we were acutely aware of the emotional impact of the Mohdi Government’s Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and recent internet shutdown in August 2019.

In each case we examined the Social Machine from the relative safety of the physical space of being in a room where the affordances of that space enabled us to do what we humans have always done, fully participate in face to face group conversations harnessing the skills we have evolved over the millennia.

Now has come the digital moment and with it the opportunity to take Brave Conversations Southampton fully online delivered via the InterWeb.

We have become digital … as well as physical beings. There is nothing in physical experience that can fully equip us with what that really means.  (Doc Searls at WebSci20)

I have always felt that when working with groups it is best to be out in front leading whilst simultaneously coaxing and shepherding those who need to move at a slower pace, and this has been one of the strengths of Brave Conversations where groups of people can learn together through sharing knowledge, experiences and ideas.  But it is fair to say that we have only just scratched the surface of fully embracing what it means to be digital because of that relative safety.

The focus of the 2020 Web Science Conference was Making the Web Human Centric asking the question can the Web be reimagined for the public good?  When we think about it the Internet, the World Wide Web and the complementary technologies around them have been with us since the mid 20th Century but our mindset has still been largely industrial as evidenced by the World Economic Forum’s focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  I have long maintained that we have been moving in to something new, something that we have not had the words to describe and which we are now beginning to fully embrace.  Time and history will give a name to this phase in human history but the reality is that we are living in a liminal space, a threshold of humanity’s next phase mediated by data and information as a currency in itself, measurable, tradable and overtly linked to power and control.

So Brave Conversations Southampton 2020 Online brought together the focus of a human centric Web with the opportunity to include people from all around the planet who had attended previous events, thus making it our first truly global event. We determined that there were two key themes which we felt impacted every one of us, regardless of where we sat, what time of the day it was or how much we knew about Web Science.

The first was our relationship with the platforms that now mediate our everyday interactions, in particular the online meeting spaces such as Zoom, and this generated some interesting reactions.  It is worth noting that had this pandemic struck a mere decade ago Zoom didn’t exist, and our digital infrastructure may not have as easily accommodated the sudden move to home working, schooling, online yoga classes and digital Bingo!  As time goes on and the novelty of living life online wears off we are beginning to appreciate the benefits but also the limitations of these media and hopefully what needs to be improved both in the technologies themselves and how we use them.

The second issue we considered was that of the relationship between citizens and their governments, and in particular how people felt about the use of Covid Apps and the data being collected in the name of public health safety and security.  We analysed a Case Study based around the notion of Antibodies as a Currency (linking to the idea of Immunity Passports) which we hoped would engender some thoughtful discussions.  What became blindingly obvious was that whilst a Case like this six months ago may have generated some controversial opinions, in the Covid space now things like this are already in place and rapidly being deployed by many governments around the World, more quickly than we can figure out what to do with them.  Few have proven to be particularly effective but that doesn’t mean that the experiments aren’t happening.

Emergencies … fast-forward historical processes …  Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments.  (Yuval Noah Harari)

What was so interesting to observe during this first online event was how for most people their main curiosity was about how others had been experiencing the Pandemic, how they had coped and were making sense of what is going on.  This generated some rich conversations which sadly we were unable to fully explore due to the shortness of time and the limitations of Zoom.  However they have now inspired us to think about how to better provide the space at future events.

It has also inspired us to open up our minds to explore how we can better harness the potential of this digital moment and create innovative experiences which reach people in new and different ways.  The first of these are our Digital Gymnasia (see next post) and the second is our first dual-language Brave Conversations which will be held in English and Arabic in August for young Arab speakers around the world.

These are exciting times and ones where the world is being reinvented in every way.  We cannot go back and a new normal will emerge, one that I am confident will bring us forward on our journey of progress to a better world.

Catastrophes bring out the best in people.  I know of now other sociological finding that’s backed by solid evidence that’s so blithely ignored.  (Rutger Bregman, Human Kind)

The other “i” word … ingenuity

The other “i” word … ingenuity

Not long ago I was walking over the entrance to Narrabeen Lakes and I saw this fellow swimming against the tide.  I had been talking to my friend about getting an endless pool and all of a sudden here was nature’s version.

As we now face the gravest human challenge in our lifetimes I have been thinking about the words we use to describe how humans solve problems, and what sort of skills, capabilities, mindsets and values we need to focus on to ensure that it is the humans that continue to play a productive role in society, rather than be reduced to either slaves or consumers within the Social Machine.

I have found myself reacting to the current buzzword of innovation and the fact that every man and his cat is seeking to innovate.  We have Innovation Labs, Innovation Agendae, Innovation Grants, Innovation Officers, Innovation programmes – you name it, it’s there madly innovating and gobbling up peoples time, mindsets and resources.

But what are we really talking about?

Innovation can be defined as a new idea, device or method, something that is both original and more effective that what was there before.

The second “i” word we often think about is Invention which is a unique or novel device, method, composition or process.  It is different because it achieves a completely unique function or result may be a radical breakthrough.

Invention and innovation are different, and should not be confused (see Wired article). 

The third “i” word that is often cited is Imagination.

Imagination is about the faculty of imagining, the creative ability to form images, ideas, and sensations in the mind from input of the senses, such as seeing or hearing.

Imagination is perhaps the key “i” word that has led to much of what we now have in the twentieth century, because it has fueled the Science Fiction that is rapidly becoming Science Fact.

All of these rests on three fundamental things – information, insight and intuition.  Whilst our technological assistants are becoming increasingly good at the first, at the minute it is only us humans that seem to have the upper hand in the latter two.

I love Wikipedia‘s definition of insight

Insight is the understanding of a specific cause and effect within a specific context.

The term insight is best understood at being something much more than just a piece of information.  It is more about

  • understanding the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively (called noesis in Greek)
  • an introspection
  • the power of acute observation and deduction, discernment, and perception, called intellection or noesis
  • an dentification of relationships and behaviors within a model, context, or scenario (this links to AI of course)
  • and, when it manifests itself suddenly it is called an epiphany.

Insights are crucial to how we read the world around us, and are often based on our sense of intuition, our ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning, proof or evidence, or  without understanding how the knowledge was acquired.

All of these “i” words are important, however there is another, which, in my mind at least, is equally, if not more, important than innovation.

This word is ingenuity.

Ingenuity is the quality of being clever, original, and inventive, often in the process of applying ideas to solve problems or meet challenges. Ingenuity (Ingenium) is the root Latin word for engineering. For example, the process of figuring out how to cross a mountain stream using a fallen log, building an airplane model from a sheet of paper, or starting a new company in a foreign culture all involve the exercising of ingenuity. Human ingenuity has led to various technological developments through applied science, and can also be seen in the development of new social organizations, institutions, and relationships. Ingenuity involves the most complex human thought processes, bringing together our thinking and acting both individually and collectively to take advantage of opportunities and/or overcome problems.

What I saw when I looked at the swimmer in the Narrabeen Lakes was ingenuity – a human being who had observed the natural world, thought about how to harness and utilise the power of nature, and created his own personal endless pool.

Ingenuity is all around us, but it is not celebrated or articulated nearly as much as it should be.  Ingenuity is at the heart of man and nature, man and machine, and will be what propels us to the next phase.

Ingenuity is what I believe countries like Australia are good at, taking something and bending it, breaking it, doing new things with it, and then coming up with a novel way of using it.

We can’t all be innovative all the time.  Despite the rhetoric and the hype we can’t all start new innovative companies that will one day either turn in to mega-corporations or be gobbled up by one.  But we can be ingenius about how we utilise the many technological wonders around us and harness them for our own purposes, rather than sleep-walk in to a future when we are mere consumerist cogs in the wheel.

As we hurtle towards a world where our inventions are increasingly beginning to redefine everything around us it is imperative that we identify what it is to be uniquely human, and fight to keep it as a priority.

In the world of work Shoshana Zuboff was one of the first to explore this in the Age of the Smart Machine and now there are plenty of calls for us to more fully understand what humans do best.  In many ways we are superb pattern recognition machines but anything that can be articulated as a pattern can most likely be written as an algorithm (assuming the availability of the data to inform it).  Kevin Kelly argued in 2012 that robots will actually be better at many of the jobs that we currently do stating that

The real revolution erupts when everyone has personal workbots, the descendants of Baxter, at their beck and call.

Zuboff predicted this in The Support Economy, a text I still highly recommend that everyone should read, and it is this combination of man and machine, the Social Machine, which is now heralding the next wave.

This is also what the group at Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society are doing in their work around data principles (see https://digitalimpact.io/digital-data/four-principles/).

What that looks like is something that only Science Fiction has thus far predicted, but is coming more quickly that most people realise, and has profound social, economic and political implications.

This is where we need to harness and utilise all of our “i” talents! 

As Douglas Rushkoff said at a recent talk I went to in London

When I was young I spent my time educating all of the analogues about digital, now I spend my time educating the digitals about analogue!

As we embrace and imbibe more and more of our technologies both around us and within us we need to celebrate and protect what it is to be human, and to understand what that is.

Our second Doughton Fellow – Amira Shahla

Our second Doughton Fellow – Amira Shahla

Amira Shahla with Berivan Esen and Anni Rowland-Campbell

Intersticia is thrilled to announce that we now have a second Doughton Fellow following on from Chemist Berivan Esen.

The Doughton Scholarship is for Women in Science, and our next Doughton Scholar is Amira Shahla.

I met Amira at the OFEK Group Relations Conference in Israel in February 2019, and was hugely impressed by her courage, energy, tenacity and hopes for the future of the Palestinian people in Israel, and the work she is doing within the Autism community around her.

Amira is a Palestinian Israeli clinical psychologist who has a Masters Degree in Clinical and Educational Psychology from Haifa University.  Amira works in her own clinical practice specialising in psychodynamic therapy, dyadic and play therapy and group therapy for all ages, including those with autism.  Amira is a member of the Israel Psychological Association and OFEK, the Israeli Association for the Study of Group and Organizational Processes.  In addition to her clinical work Amira heads up a therapy team as part of a private organization for children with autism that works with Arab children with Autism inside Kindergartens as an outsourcing to the health ministry of israel, and she is working along with a society of parents and professionals called Jusour (bridges)  towards founding the first school for Arab children with Autism in the Haifa District.

Initially Amira has utilised £1,000 of her Scholarship to fund six Palestinian psychologists to attend “Besod Siach” – the 22nd Conference for the Advancement of Dialogue and its Inquiry:  One Human Tapestry, Unravelings and Connections in times of Dispute.  This conference was held on 23rd – 25th July, 2019 at Batsheba Hotel, Jerusalem.

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