Collective Social Intelligence: The Book Launch at Foy’s Arcade

So, book launch today!

I’m pretty excited that we’re going to have 60+ people here tonight and I’m fired up to convince everyone to read my book. While preparing for my launch speech I decided to go over some of my history, I am trying to remember where all of the ideas and discoveries came from…

Looking almost as far back and my first real job, I found an Omni magazine article about the global warming exhibition I worked on in 1992. If you know OMNI you’ll know that it was a science fiction magazine managed by Kathy Keeton, the wife of Bob Guccione… but I’ll leave you to look up what he was famous for…

I was a recent post-graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and having been enticed away from my job at the New York hall of Science (near Flushing Meadows and the US Tennis Centre) I was tasked to doing everything from project management, design, software engineering, animation, science writing, photography and whatever else needed doing. I was the first ever software developer to be hired into a museum. I DID EVERYTHING… AND there I was in a science-fiction magazine.

Omni Magazine (May 1992)

The Omni article describes that until now desktop computers weren’t powerful enough to simultaneously display simulations, video, sound and text and that rather than just passively receiving information we can get actively involved in the process of acquiring and even generating information that is personally relevant! I mean Woooh… and not only that, but we were at one of the few places anywhere that could have mounted such an ambitious project.

So – that was the doing then – at great expense in New York City… what’s now pretty mundane and normal.  And that was 1992… today one of the kids can do that in an afternoon or at teenage playtime between midnight and 3 am.

So then, in 2002 I was the CEO of ACID… the Australasian CRC for interaction Design, we called it Australasian because the NZ and AUS governments agreed that we could work together and spend each other research dollars, $100 million of them… in 15 spin-offs.  At ACID we did some pretty tripy stuff. We used game engine to build virtual worlds and we even made a social network before Zuckerberg… even before mySpace, in case you know what that is… Wow – weeeee… trailblazing – AGAIN… but what’s now pretty mundane and normal.

The last thing I’ll show on the screen during the launch is the Cube… we went a bit old school with the Cube. $15M for a giant Aquarium/Diorama… but this time with 45 million litres of virtual water built out of a machine room rivalled only by a NASA server farm, a tonne of computers, the 10th biggest installation of graphics in Australia, 2 tonnes of multitouch screens, 15km of cabling, an animated sperm whale at real-life scale and the ability to simulate the gravity of all of our solar system’s planets in a 12m long physics playroom.

Ha ha – not so mundane and normal! Not this time! We went old school with high-tech.

And what did I discover through all of that? There was one constant. These were collective and social experiences. In New York’s museums the actual experience was not so mundane and normal because people were doing it together; at ACID, we spent as much on travel as we did on research because to really collaborate we needed to be in the same place at the same time at least some of the time; and at the Cube we were bringing school kids in to experience something as a group that they couldn’t get at school or at home – with their classmates – and in the context of committing to University to learn and create one day.

Today we have this space Foy’s Arcade… and from all of those past experiences a definition of what I now called Collective Social Intelligence. We are here collectively with PIF – the Property Industry Foundation and ISPT, both focused on property and various collections of people.

FoysArcade_14.11.17_HR_078

We are CSI – co-founded by me and Kristina who was/is also my editor. Kristina, thank you for helping to bring the book to life. Thank you for editing, re-writing and making sure my thoughts hung together coherently… it was no no mean feat

So here at Foys we have PIF who raises funds for the homeless and ISPT who own the building and who have every major superannuation fund as an investor. So, during the launch I’ll definitely remember to thank them; Erin Donnellon from ISPT, Wendy Brakey from PIF. Oh.. and we a donating 20% of the book sales to PIF; maybe people will buy two?

When my audience arrives I will explain to them that CSI came from these ideas and our work in the corporate world.  In the book I talk about the 12-Point-Plan for effective collaboration.  Let’s just say I think my audience will appreciate that CSI was derived from the 12 points, but more importantly derived from our realisation that people needed less management-speak to understand what we were talking about.

Artboard-1-copy12-points-1

CSI is also based some other ideas that start with trust. When we trust things and people we are naturally able to identify with them… from identity we can derive a purpose and a commitment which leads to learning and creating; making a contribution to a wider context of how we live learn work and play.

And the context is really important, especially today. The difference today is that our lives are dominated by information systems and social networks and there are no rules for how that could or should work.

Context is simply who we are with and where we are, which is very far from simple now. For CSI context is personal, professional, national and global, And now it is also both a physical place and a presence in many – mostly too many – online, virtual places. But by seeing ourselves as an intelligent social collection of people – we don’t yet do this – these varied contexts are where are making contributions that affect more and more of other people’s lives.

Through CSI we can have even more influence over how our contributions are delivered and received, particularly when we are doing things online.

Book-graphics_diagrams

We are over connected to the point of near attention deficit disorder and in so many ways that very often we don’t have any control over the information that is collected about us… Do you know the joke about why it’s great to be over 40? It’s because we did all our dumb stuff before the internet. That is before the internet could save for forever and a day all of the good, bad and ugly moments of our lives with no ways of cleaning up that mess for that day when you did that thing you shouldn’t have done because now you want to do some things that you’d now rather be doing. I will tell my audience to talk to their kids about CSI, they might just learn something about what to do and what not to do (and it could be that the parents learn something from the kids about this, not the other way around).

So, Foy’s Arcade, where we are now, is a place where we increase the amount of social contact in work, but without pretending like we can get rid of or ignore technology.

Machines have entered human social realm in ways that they will never go away… which I think is great, they are very good at automating things and helping us do our work. They are not good at being knowledgeable, like a person, perceiving and deciding based on intuition, being creative and sometimes guessing as part of making decisions, the newest wave of AI promises notwithstanding…

Here in places like Foy’s – which we call collaboratories – we bring the social back into how we collaborate. We know from working all over the world that that’s what humans need more than ever. People need social interaction and images, but our social media have us way too over connected. It’s starting to get in the way; it can force us down narrower and narrower search paths; fool us with misinformation and fake news; or – in giving us an audience and anonymity turn us very mean, texting things we’d never say to anyone’s face.

 

As one part of being Professor CSI, I’ve been following the Facebook saga since Zuckerberg volunteered to sit in front of the US congress for three hours because of some bad stuff they’re doing with our data. One of the more recent articles describes how people ‘feel like’ Facebook is listening… It seem that Facebook can give you ads about what you’re talking about when speaking as much as they can from what they learn as you type and interact with friends. So somehow Facebook can send you ads for things you’ve only talked about? There are lots of stories now about people having this very experience.

What’s interesting is that they are not listening. The computing power would be too massive for that to be economically viable. What’s scary is that they don’t have to listen. They know enough about you to make you believe that they are listening. Essentially, they can target you very, VERY well without listening…

One of the things I wonder now is, is that what we want? I think privacy is important even if you have nothing to hide (…but that’s the next book). Let’s just say for the moment that Facebook is motivated to get you addicted to spending time on the platform while collecting as much information about you as possible.

Facebook’s product is you, not the platform. We are the product. Do we really want to live in a world where a company can control how you interact with other humans so that they can make money off of you? This is not a secret, evil motivation about Facebook, it’s just what it is… I’m not sure I want to live in that world and so CSI is my answer to getting better about how we connect and why.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. I think it gives us absolutely awesome super powers. I just think that it need to give us the super power of working together better to solve… well, anything, really.

For tonight, I’ve got a simple poll on one of our displays that asks whether a specific list of issues ‘are global problems.’ I think they are, but I am interested in understanding what everyone else thinks and it’s a special, little bit of CSI for my new readers on the night.

And finally – ok – so in spite of my rant about Facebook, my secret desire and what I really, really want my new readers to do is to text, tweet and post anything about CSI – The Book as much as socially possible! Which of course includes a link to my author page at amazon.com.

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