Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Electric Milk Float: A Vision Of The Future From The Past

I remember the electric milk float from the 1960s - the slow, graceful and quiet "creature" that glided and floated serenely along our streets every morning come sun, rain, ice or snow. 

We used to live just up the road from a co-op dairy and many mornings I would be woken around 5am to the clatter of milk crates being moved around. Like Santa, milkmen did their work while most of us were fast asleep and magically, as if it were xmas day every morning, our milk would be waiting on the doorstep for our breakfast. The milk float was such a part of local communities - many of us as children, if we didn't do a paper round did a milk round before school and everyone met the milk man at the weekend when he would collect the money for the weeks milk. We always gave him an Xmas card and a small gift.

Back in the 1960s few people could afford a car - the roads were quiet and people lived, worked and shopped locally ... the milk float fitted perfectly into its time but as more people owned their own car the way people's lives  changed - they could live and work remotely and do their shopping in larger quantities and less often. The milkman couldn't compete against the supermarket - it was just cheaper and easier to buy 4 pint plastic cartons of milk with the rest of the shopping, put them in the fridge and throw them away when done. The milk float had a long and lingering decline you could see it still doing its rounds late in the day as it had to travel further "just to stand still" - delivering to fewer and fewer people. During the late1980s milk floats were in their death throws - diversifying to try and survive by offering all sorts of grocery home deliveries like potatoes, bread and juice as well as milk but it seemed too late ... and in retrospect to early - the supermarket and the out of town shopping centres were the thing and the Internet wasn't even on the horizon. Today the milk float is a rare and endangered species mostly confined to the sanctuary of better off areas where the milk bottle on the doorstep to show you can afford it along with a national trust sticker on the window to show you care.

Once upon a time almost every house and flat had milk bottles on the doorstep in the morning ... it was taken for granted and there was trust - its been a very long time since I've passed a house and seen a milk bottle on the doorstep - I can't imagine it today ... everything has changed.

I'm not sure why dairies used electric vehicles back in the 1960s - I guess its because its because they worked early in the morning and were very quiet. The electric milk float could be charged overnight and the milkman, like the postman, would stop at almost every house so only had to move slowly and had a relatively small range. 

The electric milk float was a vision of the future from the past.

* Electric
Fossil fuels are finite, toxic and cause climate change - they will inevitably be replaced by something else and fully electric vehicles are the main contender. Quiet and clean - electric delivery vehicles are inevitable, especially in rural areas and the milk float provides a ready made example of how we used to do this.

* Home delivery
The 1960s was a progressive time not only did we get to the moon but we could also have our milk delivered to our door every morning. We had local shops and local delivery - I remember our coal being delivered by horse and cart, the grocer used to do delivery rounds, mum used to order stuff from the catalogues and we could enrol to do a degree delivered to our homes with the Open University! The Internet has created a new era of home delivery but the tables have turned and its the supermarkets who are delivering our groceries and a global-national-local combination of massive international platforms and couriers delivering our shopping.

* Just in time
Every morning the milkman would leave fresh milk on our doorstep just in time for breakfast - almost without fail whatever the weather. I remember those cold winter mornings opening the front door to get the milk in ... snow against the door and with the milk bottles covered in snow and iced milk inside ... we couldn't get the milk out of the bottle - I used to love that :) Amazon Prime, Argus same day .. we had that back in the 1960s everyday before we woke up with our milk!

* Recycling
Not only did the milkman deliver our milk but he collected the empty bottles we left out so they could be reused - it was all part of the system that we took for granted ... we didn't even think about it - put the empties out at night and bring in the new milk in the morning. After decades of throw away plastic its something we have had to relearn but its far less sustainable and efficient as it was back in the 1960s with the milkman.

* Environmentally friendly
Quiet, clean, and recycled - all of these things are among the answers to the problems of today - the electric milk float and its business model was 50 years ahead of its time.

* Local 
The milkman and the milk float were local, the milkman lived locally, knew his round and the people on it - they met face to face every week and many children worked on their local milk round ... helping deliver milk to friends and neighbours and even their own house. This type of local and community knowledge has been lost in many areas as car ownership has made us all more remote. As we enter the information age it is possible it is possible to flip the meaning of remote work ... rather than work remotely from where you live it is possible for many people in information processing jobs to "work remotely" ... i.e. to work locally or at home using the Internet.

Like going to the moon ... we have been there before

Environmentally friendly and local ... the vision of the vision of the future that many have is a reflection of the past ... there is no need to re-invent the wheel but the battery - the electric milk float was a vision of the future from the past.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The art of life

Liz Atkin charcoal art   flat image from https://flic.kr/p/UJDtG3

Every picture tells a story and we all have a story to tell ... we are all artists searching for meaning.

The art of life is the life of art 
A life of art is the art of life.

The information age is upon us, robots and artificial intelligences will intrude, impact and even invade our lives and ask the question of what it means to be human. We have had art as long as we have had technology .. from the earliest cave paintings to today's immersive virtual realities. Technology and art have always co-existed with us to have one without the other could be catastrophic. Art is a quest for meaning and identity and is its expression ... in an age of automation and technology rush art will be vital in our quest for meaning ... art may be the key to our survival. It was with this in mind that I did the "Havelock Walk".

Havelock Walk  is home to a community of artists, designers and musicians in the centre of Forest Hill. They often open their studios for the public to wander around to see and chat about their art.

I had been meaning to go for ages and on a Saturday afternoon I went along and took a 360 camera.
The first studio in Havelock walk is the Havelock gallery and straight away I got talking to the people there and this is how "doing the Havelock walk" went - rather than just standing and staring at art we had a chance to talk with the artists about their art. It started when I asked about the dramatic image in charcoal and was told it was by Liz Atkin ... who has a compulsive skin picking problem and uses drawing to re-focus her hands and mind and how she channels her compulsion into 1 minute #CompulsiveCharcoal free drawings on public transport and gives them away.

Sooty .. unfinished  flat image from Flat image from https://flic.kr/p/UJDtG3
I turned around and asked about the painting behind me - a large Sooty the bear image with a wand - I was told that the artist didn't consider it finished and that Michelangelo only considered one of his paintings as finished. We had a conversation about life in beta ... about the importance of exploring, experimenting and learning. Our lives are in perpetual beta ... a presentation of self in everyday life ... only perhaps when we die are we complete.

The theme of life as art was made tangible in studio 9 f h  space "First Half" exhibition ... the first 50 years of the artists life. I related to the tangible, physical objects that were also in my life .. .the little Ladybird books that I loved reading as a kid for example. We spoke about the next 50 years .. how it may become more intangible through virtualisation ... what would a "Last Half" exhibition be like ... would it al be screens and virtual reality headsets ... would there even be a physical gallery and would you need one?

A physical gallery is more than flat walls .. its a three dimensional space of objects we enter with our bodies our senses and other people - its something that is difficult to convey with flat images on a screen .. this is why I did the Havelock Walk with a 360 camera .. to try and convey a better idea of being in the studios and galleries .. to give a first person perspective of being there.

Serena Rowe's Gallery flat image from https://flic.kr/p/TKvR9R
Serena Rowe's exhibition tucked down the end of a little corridor was a real treat ... a small darkly lit space packed with art and character and with music playing. I wasn't sure there was enough light to get a good image but the "claustrophobic" space was super for 360 imagery. The 360 camera coped remarkably well considering the very low light see https://flic.kr/p/TKvR9R, https://flic.kr/p/TKvTJk and https://flic.kr/p/UVrwgy .. the images are still quite dark but hopefully give an impression of what it was like in Serena's exhibition. We talked about how how the space and the music in the gallery affects people's mood and their experience of the art.

Art work .. the work of art happens in the space around the art and the observer - this is why we have physical galleries. 

Artists love natural light if they can get it .. Pip Tunstill's exhibition was modern and light and had sky lights to give great natural light at the far end of the gallery. They say a dog resembles its master (or is that a car its driver) and In so many ways the gallery resembles Pip's bright modern art work - see  https://flic.kr/p/UoVTx5  https://flic.kr/p/UoW1Gf

David Mach's studio .. flat image from https://flic.kr/p/UYYyKk
Getting an idea of the artist in their "natural habitat" was the main reason for doing the Havelock Walk and David Mach's studio 8 was a treat with its feeling of work in progress ... take a look around at the large benches and all the cuttings here https://flic.kr/p/UYYyKk and here https://flic.kr/p/TKwjHD

The last exhibitions I visited were Elizabeth Chisholm's in studio 10 and the Canvas and Cream gallery's "Age Of Anxiety" see https://flic.kr/p/TKwaLk, https://flic.kr/p/UYYab6 and https://flic.kr/p/UVrh5h. Elizabeth's CCTV inspired POV (Point Of View) artwork has a strong and obvious connection to the first person point of view imagery of 360\virtual reality (VR) technology. New technologies give artists new ideas, symbols, insights and techniques and 360\virtual reality one of the most relevant contemporary developments. There are many challenges to artists using 360/VR technology ... there is no longer a fixed point of view to your art ... the observer can look in any direction. Each 360/VR work of art is a three dimensional gallery installation - it's a three dimensional experience co-created by the artist and each viewer.

I didn't go into all the studios and galleries .. there were plenty up stairs that I didn't visit .. a big regret now but something left for another time .. for a life in beta ... nothing is ever complete.

It may not be possible to live the perfect life but it is possible to live a beta one.

The Open Day 360/VR images on Flicker https://flic.kr/s/aHskVtYtAa

Me ... I'm Martin King ... @timekord
Find out more about my work at http://inspireNshare.com 

Find out more about Havelock Walk on the links below

Havelock Walk Web http://www.havelockwalk.com
Havelock Walk Twitter @HavelockStudios

Friday, 12 May 2017

Technology Rush

Beavers dam rivers, birds build nests and chimpanzees use sticks to get ants but there is something different about the way we make and use technology.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”  ~ Thomas A. Edison

"Technology is the craft of science"

We explore, tinker, experiment and try stuff out in a feedback loop that dampens that which doesn't work and amplifies that which does work - forever building the next generation of technology on the successes and failures of the last generation.

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us."

Like it or not technology has come to define what it means to be a human being - like a spider and its web we are symbiotic with technology and each generation of technology extends our web - it extends what is possible and what yet might become possible.

Technology drive
It could almost be argued that technology is a core human drive an "excitatory state produced by a homeostatic disturbance ... an instinctual need that has the power of driving the behaviour of an individual." Its certainly true that many of us seek technology and are excited by it .. unfortunately for some its like an addiction ... they are never satisfied they need to seek out technology ... any new technology just to get a rush.

Our technology drive depends a lot on our age and our circumstances:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
~ Douglas Adams The Salmon of Doubt

Children take to technology "like ducks to water" ... its just natural and they just play with it. 

There are those among us who cannot help playing .. exploring, experimenting and having fun throwing stuff against the wall to see if it will stick. These are the experimenters and innovators .. the people we depend on to develop our technology ... the people we depend on to extend our capabilities.

For many among us technology just brings out the inner child ... you know the phrase "toys for boys" ... for those (usually men) who have just got to have the latest shiny gadget ... for no particular reason .... just because "Iphone therefore I am."

"The Next Big Thing"
The stone axe, the spear, the arrow .. there is no doubt that technology gives those who have it an advantage .. just consider how the Mongols built an empire with one technological breakthrough

There are those among us who see the new technology being played with by the experimenters and innovators and apply it.

There are those among us who seek technology that can help us all. Take for example the story of how a 13-year-old Selam who had to many spend hours and walk many miles every day just to get water for her family from a water hole that is dirt and full of leeches. Technology allowed them to drill for water nearby .. now she no longer "has to spend all day collecting water" giving her the time and energy to study to become a nurse. You can see Selam's story in 360 degree video or in virtual reality if you have a viewer in the With.in video The Source.

Technology amplifies us and there are of course those among us who seek to amplify an advantage ... those who seek wealth and power - the business person, the politician. Being part of the next big thing can lead to great personal wealth and power ... this is what drives some people ... this is the technology drive for some - Technology Is The Fastest Way For 20-Year-Olds To Get Rich. While technology can amplify the few  .. we must be wary of its effects on the many - we must be wary of technology amplifying inequality.

Image  Bryan Mathers

"It takes all sorts to make a world" 
It takes all sorts to make a world and it takes all sorts to make and use technology - the playful experimenter, the philanthropic developer, the business developer and the "sceptical laggards" who quite rightly resist and raise questions about technology and put the brakes on.

Everyone plays their part in the technology game - we are all part of the drive and the checks and balances that balance the bad with the good and hopefully help stop us fast forwarding over a cliff!

Google Maps sends flood of tourists wrong way in Norway

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Next Big Thing

"The future is already here - it's just not very evenly distributed." ~ William Gibson

"It takes 20 years to make an overnight success." ~ Eddie Cantor

"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run" ~ Roy Amara

A mainframe in your pocket? .... It is difficult to imagine the unimaginable ... to "think outside the box" but  ... there is always a next big thing ... its about human nature not just technology.

The next big thing usually starts at the edge ... innovations and experiments that fail or progress slowly in the background ... things which the leading edge innovators and experimenters can't help messing around with .. its in their nature. Exponential development of digital technology means that big, rare and expensive things become small common and cheap things .. the first mobile phone experiment filled the back of a transit van and can you remember those big "brick" mobile phones.

"Old Technologies Never Die, They Just Don't Get Updated" 
The PC peaked in the mid naughties and the smartphone became the next big thing. We still use radios, televisions, PCs, photocopiers, printers and so on ... old technologies stick around - they also become accommodated and assimilated into the fabric of the next generation - its almost like an organic lifecycle .... dust to dust, ashes to ashes .. the passing of old technologies give life to the next generation ... and increasingly their bits are recycled as well :)

The next big thing is built on the last big thing ... infrastructure platforms are necessary to build not just the present but the future. The microcomputer was built on microchips .. the previous developments with integrated circuits. The Web was built on the Net. The Cloud was built on the Web and so on.

The next big thing is built from todays things ... combination gives exponential emergence - the iPhone didn't come out of nowhere 10 years ago ... it was knitted from mobile phones, PDA's and whole whole lot more contemporary tech and ideas ... it was the packaging of all these things together that caused the frog to jump and get our attention. Remember the Psion Organiser, the Apple Newton, the Nokia Communicator. In the early naughties the two big technology threads were mobile phones and PDAs and the next big thing was predicted to be a unification of computing and communications and just how these threads would be knitted together into the the next big thing. I remember using the Compaq Ipaq in the early naughties and could see how mobile phones could do away with keypad and just have a smartscreen ... however, I wasn't Steve Jobs :)

Evolution needs diversity to select from and today we have a cambrian explosion or rich primordial soup of new tech - the "genetic" ingredients and all the conditions for the "next big thing" to emerge. Today is one of the most exciting times for developing tech that I have ever known - AI, natural language processing, machine vision, IoT, VR, AR, 360, depth sensing "seeing" cameras, 3D printing, robotics plus all the platform and infrastructure of the last big things - smartphones, Wireless comms, Web, Net, Cloud and social.

Which ingredients are used, how they are combined and used for the next big thing is anyone's guess ... the conditions for the next big thing to emerge, get our attention and cross the chasm are like the ingredients of the next big thing - a combination. Chance, circumstance, design, economics, capability, need and desire.

One thing is clear though ... the next big thing is not determined by technology but by human nature - it can take quite a while but people will knit together the next big thing from the threads they find today. 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Tech Baby Grows Up

17 years ago Steve Jobs introduced the Apple Mac ... the really crucial crucial thing for Jobs was that The Macintosh Speaks For Itself (Literally)

“Hello, I am the Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag.” ~ Apple Macintosh 1984

 young Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh

After command line text interfaces the Macs speech output and graphical user interface was super exciting .... the future was here already!

The Mac speech output got our attention but it was the graphical interface WIMP that "changed the world" - putting computing on the big screen but trapping it behind glass for decades.

The graphical user interface has defined every form for personal computer since the Macintosh - laptop, netbook, tablet and smartphone but the very thing that set computing free came to limit what it can be. 

Are out pockets bigger these days ... mobile computing has got bigger and more expensive as engineers trade screen size and capability against power, weight and battery life - a computer screen is very demanding.

The graphical user interface was a computing child screen star but trapped computing behind glass in never-never land .. computing could never grow up.

"If You Want to be Understood...Listen" ~ Babel

In 2010 Apple bought Siri and got our attention ...Tech Baby had learned to listen as well as talk ... computing could start to grow up at last. Computers were learning our natural language and rather than people having to adapt to computers, computers could adapt to us ... computing form and function could finally start evolving.
The Amazon Echo has no screen

Voice is certainly a better interface for mbile computing and people are starting to use voice assistants a lot more ... OK Google, Siri, Alexa, Cortana; Can you tell me some stats on voice search? ... Google says 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches

Computing is no longer just a big screen actor ... tech baby is growing up and off-screen it can take on new roles and forms that we can barely imagine today. 

Apple's Siri learns Shanghainese as voice assistants race to cover languages, Pilot earbuds are like a real life, language-translating babel fish
Without a big screen computing can become limitless, take on new forms and maybe one day reach a vanishing point where it "disappears" by becoming diverse, ambient, worn and even embedded. Our high tech Smartphones of today could be the end of the screenage - what comes next may be hard to imagine just now but one thing I hope is that in learning to listen tech baby learns to scream less for our attention.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Tech Baby

Exponential developments shrink our tech - the mainframe of the 1970s is given away free on the cover of a magazine and we carry supercomputers around in our pockets

Smartphones are not only general purpose supercomputers but general purpose gadgets - combining and for many replacing a dizzying number of different things

Telephone, computer, camera, music player, radio, books etc ... we've put all of these together behind a screen and shrunk it to fit in our pocket - your smartphone is the pinnacle of the screenage and its screaming for attention.

Email alerts, txt alerts, calendar notifications, Twitter notifications, Facebook updates, news alerts etc etc 24/7/365 your smartphone never sleeps and neither can you - your smartphone is a baby - it needs a lot of attention and it takes a lot of your attention -  "our constant digital stimulation may be contributing to an increasingly problematic deficit of attention in modern society.”

"I'm busy, I'm important"  ...notifications increase our feeling of self worth and we seek it ... smartphone alerts are dopamine cues for opioid pleasure - they are addictive but like most addictions they are exhausting and debilitating.

The cost of ubiquitous connectivity is lower productivity and psychological well- being ... the silver lining is that the problem can be turned off  “Importantly, we found that people can reduce the harmful effects of overstimulation by smartphones simply by keeping their phones on silent and out of easy reach whenever possible, thus keeping notifications at bay.”

Don't let your smartphone push you around ... switch from push to pull - take control and check your smartphone for updates when you want to check for updates ... check for emails when you want to do emails etc. Most things coming in on your phone are asynchronous ... they don't have to be dealt with in real time but can be responded to later  - only leave alerts on for those things that really need alerts e.g. as head of IT systems I only left the phone ringtone on ... if there was a real emergency someone would take the time to call and talk about it .. they wouldn't tweet or email :)

Image: Bryan Mathers 

Now that everyone is online ... being offline isn't just good for your state of mind but its also becoming cool. 

At the end of 2015 Ed Sheeran announced he is "taking a break" from social media as he is "seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes".

Its no co-incidence that the Nokia 3310 created such a stir at this years mobile world congress billed as "your digital detox phone ... a second device for smartphone-weary consumers" - its cheap, small and with a battery that lasts a month!

1 in 4 British consumers want to digital detox in 2016 - Information overload appears to be the driving force behind the trend- 40% said they were frustrated by the volume of updates that they see from old friends or acquaintances, while more than a quarter 28% are irritated by the constant stream of often irrelevant or annoying updates from brands.... research suggests that spending more time online doesn’t necessarily equate to a greater degree of happiness for many people. In fact, many of the people that we surveyed would rather hear a little less from friends and family online, in favour of spending more quality time together offline.’

The value of digital detox, the cool of techno retro and the Future of Technology in Education - we knew this back in 2013 ... see my photo of Lindsay Jordan with her feature phone at FOTE13 :) 

@lindsayjordan at #fote13  - techno retro & the new cool

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Daily Trump

You couldn't make this stuff up - Donald Trump is the US president won the US election - Truth is stranger than fiction.

I've done a daily Google of Trump since he won the election - it keeps me amused in the mornings - there's never been a dull moment - there is always something "interesting to read" but I have to pinch myself that this is not a TV drama ... this is reality TV.

Donald Trump is a case study in trading places and being there leadership - it shows anyone can be a leader and by occupying a leadership position you can say whatever you like and people will think you know what you are talking about. Trump recognises being there ... "when you’re a star … you can do anything" ...   he could shoot someone and still not lose voters (assuming it wasn't one of his voters he shot) - he can read random words (he often seems to) and people will interpret them as wise.

Whether we like it or not Trump has written himself into history ... it is the story of our age. Trump becoming US president marks the beginning of the information revolution - a time of unprecedented change ... stress, uncertainty and potentially chaos. The industrial revolution is going rusty - its workers are finding themselves displaced and disposed by the forces of the information revolution but what can they do ... who can represent them. Trump played the rust workers for his own ends - this story is all about those who have power and how they use the information revolution to serve themselves - lies, fake news its all part of the game.

With Web 2.0 and social media I really thought things could be different - I thought the earth was flat and people would be able to connect and share - that truth would out but what we see with the election of Trump is that the old ways are amplified with information technology ... life goes on and the new boss is the same as the old boss ... or in the case of Trump ... a lot worse.

Trump was a tipping point from the industrial era to the hot air and false promise of the information age ... this is just the beginning ... how this all works out we will have to see .... 

"Will we solve the crises of next hundred years? asked Krulwich. “Yes, if we are honest and smart,” said Wilson. “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.” Until we understand ourselves, concluded the Pulitzer-prize winning author of On Human Nature, “until we answer those huge questions of philosophy that the philosophers abandoned a couple of generations ago—Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?—rationally,” we’re on very thin ground.."

~ E. O. Wilson ... An Intellectual Entente