What now for Australian politics?

My personal politics are fairly well-known, I don’t seek to keep my allegiances too close to my chest. However, this post is about politics more generally, and what I’m thinking about as we, in the words of my wise godfather, Michael Pusey, “slide down the razor blade of life towards our inevitable end”; that end being the impending federal election.

First, I’d argue the polls, multitudinous as they are, lack meaning without discussion (which is why the media polls are provably without point; you can do the statistical and uncertainty analysis on them, and they rarely influence or shift opinion), so long as we all remain cogent and adult, and discuss policy over personality. I think there’s little hope of that happening given the execrable state of our media. Even the nation’s flagship nightly current affairs program has abrogated it’s responsibility when Leigh Sales asks incessant questions about leadership speculation rather than dissecting policy and seeking for truth.

This weeks’ machinations, those of the past, and the equally innumerable shifts of leadership on the other side of the House make little difference to me. They simply firm my view that both major parties have abandoned policy platforms and a desire to make a difference to the nation, in favor of personalities and overweening, cold-eyed ambition. A change of leader, for any party, won’t change my vote. As a policy wonk from way back, I’m interested in what parties will do and stand for, over personalities and the misleading construct most of the voting public seem to have been fooled into – that they vote for (and in any way influence) the choice of Prime Minister. Go back to 7th Grade and re-do basic Civics! (oh, we don’t have a decent Civic curriculum in this nation…)

I’ve been asked if my vote will change this week in order to seek a better outcome for my business. If we all voted in the best interests of our businesses, we’d probably largely vote Liberal in this country. However, my vote is always in context, and there are a wealth of other considerations – social policy, foreign relations, climate, environment, and the generation of what’s generally referred to as “social goods” by progressive economists like Umair Haque (I recommend you read his New Capitalist Manifesto and Betterness).

For me, these things are far more important overall than immediate policy benefit for acidlabs. I’m a firm believer in doing good work with and for people you believe in and that the benefits come.

For those critical of the functioning of the 43rd Parliament, I’m not certain you can justifiably call the current parliament dysfunctional. It’s passed more legislation than any previous parliament. Those calling it ineffective on the basis of a minority government and the need to ensure equitable legislative agendas in order to gain passage on the vote of cross-benches, aren’t paying adequate attention.

This parliament and similar ones elsewhere, such as northern Europe, where either grand coalitions or equitable agreements are necessary in order to pass legislation, are almost universally successful in prosecuting legislative agendas that achieve the best results for the majority of the populace.

If anything, this parliament has been notable for its success in getting nation-changing policies made into law. Our nation will be a better place for carbon trading, the NDIS, the NBN, education funding reform, and maintaining an economy that’s inarguably the envy of most of the Western world on a subjective basis.

What’s not worked, and will be remembered before the good things, are those issues where rightwards creep, kowtowing to big business, and poll-driven politics has been at play – our unjust, and illegal under our international obligations, treatment of asylum seekers, the continued failure of decent treatment of indigenous Australians and our failure to recognise their presence and rights in the Constitution, our failure to lead the world on delivering marriage equality despite overwhelming public support, a tax on super-profits that the government allowed the rentseekers in mining to gut so they’d almost never have to pay up, and the rampant mistreatment of women not just in politics, but still in many parts of society and economy.

The last three years have seen a very effective parliament, a highly productive economy with incredibly low debt in comparison to our global peers, and many legislative changes to improve society that we should be proud of as a nation.

Think about that on polling day, whatever your politics.

Bringing meaning to social networks

I’m someone who works with social tools for a living. My job is defined by the level of expertise I bring to using them and the way I can use them to connect with people in communities of expertise, mostly in a business context. In a grand failure (or, is it?) of work-life balance, my social and personal life involves a good deal of social network use too.

And, as part of my participation in TEDActive next week, I’m involved in a project called TEDActiveSOC. It’s all about finding deeper meaning in the way we use and create social networks and our ever-increasing hyperconnectedness. My ongoing research and thinking has me convinced that the heart of the project needs to be about enabling the production of social, or public goods.

We all know we can use our social networks for everything from the mundane and trivial to the world-changing.

I want to weight my use and actions in 2011 to real and tangible outcomes; something like a set of Umair Haque‘s laws for organisations into a similar set for social innovation.

It can’t be that hard.

There’s real social capital to be derived for users at the personal level with these outcomes in mind and even greater good at the level of organisations and society as a whole.

I’m keen for a perspective on social, organisational, governmental and personal change as an outcome that use of these tools can amplify. There are no Twitter and Facebook revolutions. Rather there are revolutions of people, somewhat amplified through social networks.

At this point, I’m actually thinking a touch wider. What I want to see is the creation of new social networks (whatever and whenever they are) with a “do no harm” perspective built in from the ground up in the DNA of the companies (and people) who make them.

So too, I want to see the users thinking the same way. Here are the sorts of questions I’m asking myself:

  • How do we use our social tools to ensure that no harm comes to others now and into the future as a consequence of our actions?
  • How do we create thick social value through the invention and use of social tools and networks?
  • How do we ensure our social tools are always about people over things?
  • How do we create and use social tools based on principle versus strategy – aiming purpose over profit?

I think we need to look to Africa and parts of Asia.

In these places, societies are becoming more connected, but in simpler ways that benefit the people directly through outcomes such as ensuring best prices for goods at market (Kenya, I think), knowing which port will buy your catch (Sri Lanka), ensuring police are paid their full wage rather than corrupt officials skimming a cut (Afghanistan), etc. All these projects are enabled by Internet-connected tools, but not accessed by anything more complex than an old-school grey screen Nokia and text messages.

This is the stuff that’s bugging me.

I Am A Geek

Naturellement!

What a fine little piece of joy from The Society for Geek Advancement!

Actually, it’s all for a really good cause – supporting the awesome folks at Room To Read, who build libraries in developing countries.

So, come join your fellow geeks – famous and not so famous – and proudly declare your geekiness!

TED Session 2 – Reframe

The second TED session was possibly more mind-blowing than the first. Great speakers and arts. Huge ideas. Calls for action.

Gamelan X and ArcheDream

  • Weird beautiful chromatic dancers
  • Very like Cirque du Soleil
  • Online collaboration to bring together

Tom Reilly

  • Goes through the TED gift bag
  • Bags made from Coke bottles
  • Lots of very cool stuff, much of which has a sustainability or green or empowerment focus

Tim Berners-Lee

  • 20 years since inventing the WWW
  • Was a side project 18 months after he proposed it
  • “Vague but exciting” – memo note from TB-L’s boss
  • Hypertext documents cool but not enough
  • Now put your data there
  • Hyperlinked and manipulated data much more exciting, e.g. Hans Roslin’s TED talk
  • Linked data – data has relationships
  • dbpedia links data from Wikipedia to other related data sources!!!
  • Don’t hug your database, give us the unadulterated data (especially governments)
  • “Raw data now!”
  • Your social networks are about linked data – relationships
  • OpenStreetMap – add your own data
  • Make it and demand it

Cindy Gallop

  • Has sex with younger men (in 20s)
  • Encounters behaviors that exhibit the growth of pervasiveness of hardcore porn
  • Sexual behavior changing affected by accessibility to porn
  • Porn is defacto sex education thanks to prudish attitudes in society
  • makelovenotporn.com
  • Explodes the behavioral myths of hardcore porn
  • Use site to change behaviors and have a realistic conversation

Yair Landau

  • Left Sony after 17 years after TED last year
  • Began looking at collaboration for CGI film
  • Mass collaboration – 50K people, 440 shots

Nandan Nilekani

  • Growth of ideas(In India) we now think of people as human capital not a societal burden
  • Demographic dividend – India will be only young country in an aging world
  • Language an asset
  • From man vs machine to man and machine – technology now empowering
  • Indians very comfortable with globalisation – no longer viewed as a form of Imperialism
  • Deepening of democracy
  • Universal access to K-6
  • Infrastructure growth
  • Cities=growth engines
  • Single market
  • Policy making gridlock thanks to castes, etc.
  • Job protection hampering job creation
  • Energy drives growth

Pattie Maes

  • We use our senses to understand situations
  • We don’t have access to all the info we need
  • Can we have a 6th sense for metadata?
  • We don’t have the luxury of meta info as we need it and can’t make optimal decisions
  • MIT working on tools to give access to meta info
  • Current kit is US$350 – webcam, projector, cell phone
  • The camera software tracks gestures
  • Use any surface to interact with projected info
  • Totally mobile
  • Mass production for about the cost of a cell phone
  • Access to any required data based on personal preference
  • Harry Potter newspapers!
  • Tagged reality
  • Work in progress
  • 10 years to being biologically wired in

Al Gore

  • methane content in atmosphere growing thanks to bioactivity related to increased ice melt
  • entire Antarctic now has negative ice balance
  • Himalayas now has new lakes that used to be glaciers – reduced river flow availability from melt available to 2B people!
  • Andes – drinking water volume down
  • dramatic global increase in forest fire
  • 4x increase last 30 years over previous 75 years in climate-related disaster events
  • 70M tons of CO2 each day into atmosphere from human
  • fossil fuel burn now a significant percentage of total emissions
  • clean coal is an OXYMORON
  • a new clean energy movement = jobs growth and financial recovery (at least in part)

Ray Anderson

  • Husband, father, grandfather and industrialist
  • As competitive as anyone else in business
  • Reinvent the industrial system
  • “Whole problem is the decline of the biosphere”
  • Potentially 1000 years for the atmosphere to recover
  • Read Ecology of Commerce in 1994
  • “Take nothing and do no harm”
  • “Unless somebody leads, nobody will”
  • “I am a recovering plunderer”
  • There must be a clear, demonstrable alternative
  • Modified Erlich equation
  • Down 82% in absolute tonnage of CO2 with 2x profit
  • 75% reduction in H2O use in carpet tile manufacturing
  • 50% reduction in H2O use in broadloom manufacturing
  • 74K tons of used carpet completely recycled
  • 85M sq yds of no net waste carpet sold since 2002Only halfway to Zero Footprint. 2020 target for Mission Zero.
  • Incredibly good for business
  • Protect Tomorrow’s Child (poem)
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TED Session 1 – Reboot

Here’s the thing, I can’t write fast enough to make all this make this all make sense, so what I’m going to do is post my raw notes from each session. Crazy, I know, but hopefully it gives you at least a feel for what’s going on. When I get time, I’ll go through and add more links and detail.

Ask questions if you want more detail.

Juan Enriquez

  • The economy (elephant)
  • When you’re dancing in the flames, what’s next?
  • Banks over-leveraged (Citibank 47x)
  • Mandatory spending now hits 100% at 2017 (maybe sooner)
  • Banish entitlements
  • Work longer (2-4 more years)
  • Reduce military by 3% pa
  • Limit borrowing
  • 225 largest Japanese companies worth 25% of 18 years ago
  • “As we cut we must also grow”
  • Louis L’Amour – end… beginning
  • Skin cells rebooted to stem cells – you can make any body part
  • Oscar Pistorius – combine engineering, robotics, humans – eventually unbeatable
  • Ears now – soon better than normal
  • Eyes beginning
  • There will be a new species of hominids – before we die – take direct control (the ultimate reboot)

jane@ted.com – TED scribe, ask her questions and Chris will ask the speakers.

P.W. Singer

  • Military tech
  • Packbot
  • Reality is that robots are now doing mundane tasks but will move to critical life and death decision
  • 5300 drones
  • 12K unmanned ground units – Model T
  • Moore’s Law working on military robots
  • We are in a revolution in war
  • Affect the who of fighting at its most fundamental level
  • Warfare now open source
  • War from afar – costless war
  • War porn
  • More PTSD in remote distance fighters – it’s like a video game and we don’t have the same cognitive or conscience filters. 12 hour shifts and home for dinner.
  • How do we rethink the rules of war?

Yves Behar and Forrest

  • Serendipity and collaboration
  • Met at TED last year
  • Mission 1 motorcycle

Comcast broadband ad – shaved panther rabbit with jets – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzxGyty80PM

Thomas Dolby

  • music aids “digestion”

Naturally 7

  • UK charts this week
  • Acapella
  • Beatboxing as a seriously amazing art form
  • Vocal play
  • Wall of sound

David Hanson

  • Robotics
  • Freaky robot faces that look human
  • Conversational response

Bill Gates

  • 2nd time at TED
  • Rebooting philanthropy
  • “Hope I’m not in the Reboot section because sometimes you need to reboot your PCs.”
  • “Any tough problem, I think, can be solved.”
  • Malaria control
    • Bed nets and DDT reduce deaths by 50%
    • Foundation backing drug research – phase 3 trials
  • Great teachers
    • Make opportunity equal for all students, not just top 20%
    • Over 30% drop out rate in US – 50% in minorities
    • Higher chance of going to jail than completing 4yr degree in US if in low income bracket
    • Best teachers not the most senior ones
    • Masters’ degree has nearly no measurable effect
    • Past performance only truly significant measure
    • KIPP program – dynamic, engaging
  • US$3.8B from Gates Foundation in 2009, half on global health initiatives
  • As you improve health there is direct correlation with reduction in population growth as parents feel they do not need to reproduce so many children who *might* survive to adulthood
  • Opportunities compound (Gladwell and Gates) – luck and skill combine
  • Don’t optimise for your epitaph

Ben Zander

  • Conductor Boston Philharmonic
  • Happy Birthday to YOU
  • We have distinguished possibility.
  • What will you do next time you sing “Happy Birthday”? Or indeed next time in anything?
  • You can choose to get up and conduct.
  • Resignation. Anger. Possibility.
  • TED chooses POSSIBILITY
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