Open Thinkering


Weeknote 20/2024

A presenter at a conference with an abstract presentation slide behind him, featuring the text "Even if it is, hand-waving tech bros won't save us", surrounded by large, colorful suspended orbs in a dimly lit room with a starry background.

I’m so glad I picked up a ticket for The Thinking Digital conference! It really was excellent, and the vibe was almost the exact opposite to that of 2022 which had left me so cold. As Heraclitus said, we can’t step into the same river twice. Not only does it change, but also we change.

Speaking of philosophy, the first talk at the conference was from Tom Chatfield, thinker and author, and a contributor to one of my favourite magazines, New Philosopher. He’s pictured above, and although some people I spoke to afterwards said they struggled with the lack of concrete takeaways, the point of philosophy is to provoke thought. I appreciated his three points:

  1. We’re entering a world of infinite, instant answers (but we still need to decide which questions are worth asking
  2. Some things are all about final destinations (but plenty are also about taking part
  3. We are nothing like Artificial Intelligence (and it’s nothing like us) (and that’s okay)

There were also sessions on origami and how it relates to engineering, the importance of storytelling in science communication, the history of the competition between OpenAI and Deepmind, the story behind the ‘Unsilence the Crowd‘ tactile Newcastle United shirts, and more.

I went to the pre-conference workshop run by Chris Thompson and Fay Cooper from Northumberland County Council, and met lots of interesting people, who I continued to talk with along with others, old and new, during the conference itself. The conference dinner was great, as were the other social occasions. An absolute triumph and I’ll definitely be back again next year!

Other than that, I’ve been trying to squeeze in work for WAO and on my MSc module. We haven’t got loads on client-wise, and I’m a bit behind on my studying. Laura and Anne were away, cycling in Ireland, so I caught up with John a bit, and did some work on our DCC project, as well as some bizdev.

Our daughter had two football presentations in the past week. The first was for the league winners at a hotel in Newcastle, and the second was Whitley Bay Sporting Club’s. Their goal difference after 20 games in the league was +164 and they were playing a year up. I think that tells you pretty much everything you need to know. I think this is the first season she hasn’t won either manager’s player or player’s player, but to be honest they’re all superstars.

Our son has had exams this week and has, by the sound of it, absolutely smashed them. I marked his practice exam papers and he was getting 90% on them for both Sport and Maths, so he’s doing really well. His seasons for basketball and football have finished now, so I’ve been threatening him with pre-season training 😉

What else? I got my postal vote sorted out after the Head of Elections at Northumberland County Council reached out to me personally, and oversaw everything to ensure that I’m registered to vote by post for the General Election. I think there must have been a mix-up because I moved twice within six months.

I published a few things at Thought Shrapnel, as well as an overview of Season 9 of The Tao of WAO. Matt Jukes started a new blog about bloggers and put a shout out for contributions. I filled in his form, and my response is now live on the site.

On Friday afternoon I went along to Dave Grey’s School of the Possible campfire which was a fantastic experience. I’ve known of Dave for over 15 years through his company (which he’s now sold) called XPLANE. He’s a great facilitator, and I met and talked with some really interesting people. The calls are free to attend, and he’s building an “experimental learning community, focused on exploring the adjacent possible.” I’m definitely going to return and perhaps even upgrade to get more access.

Finally, I’ve been painting. We’ve now lived in our new place a month and the downstairs is almost done. There’s a couple more walls to do, and of course our teenagers’ bedrooms were done first of all. I’ve put a lot of paint on walls over the past few weeks! There’s so much to do when you move house; I think we’ll still be sorting things out over the summer. And then, once that’s done, we need to decide what work we’re going to do to the house, because my office is not staying in the utility room long-term…

Next week, Laura and Anne will be back on Tuesday after the public holiday in Germany. I’m looking forward to doing some co-working. I’ve got a couple of calls with interesting people, as I did last week. (A reminder that you can book an online ‘coffee’ session with me if you fancy a chat about, well, anything really!

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