Politics needs change, not unity

The UK is suffering division, so our politicians and media are calling for unity. It is old wisdom that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The old-style parties no longer represent the people. Some Conservative ministers could just as easily belong to Labour. There was very little to distinguish Cameron from Blair, and Theresa May is another Blairite. What’s the point of a Conservative Party that’s half full of MPs that could as easily have stood under a Labour banner?

With disintegrations, resignations and rebellions all round, this is a better time than ever to reform the parties. We need a clear spread of easily distinguishable and well-focused alternatives to choose from. The old main parties adopted indistinguishable values to capture the same chunk of the electorate, only differing in competence, so voters who didn’t share those values felt disenfranchised and responded by moving to the fringes. In a referendum where people had to choose between quite different value sets, all of the existing parties except UKIP and the vast majority of politicians occupied the same space, and collectively only actually represented 48% of the population. The important views of half the electorate were shared by only a quarter of politicians, while the other half had three quarters, or three times as much representation. Now that the referendum has been won, UKIP has no lingering purpose so could also be thrown into the mix to redesign new parties.

Having half of the population represented by three times as many MPs as the other half is bad democracy, but instead of trying to take a lead by fixing it, it looks likely that the Conservatives will try to preserve the unfairness by selecting Theresa May, rambling on about the need to restore unity. Unity of the half that are represented, while still keeping the other disenfranchised? That’s how revolutions and civil wars start, probably, though history isn’t my strong point.

We have the Greens and Corbyn offering a clear-cut far left. A few sacked UKIP candidates and some ex-BNP people could field a tiny far right too. Labour, LibDems and Conservatives are all badly in need of reinvention, while UKIP has done its job so can also be thrown in the mix. They should all discuss things with one another until they finally discover what their real differences are, and form new parties. Usefully, they could also agree that they actually all share some values in common. Everyone wants fairness, nobody wants racism, everyone wants to end poverty, nobody wants an unhealthy environment or pollution, everyone wants good health care and to look after the ill, the weak, the disadvantaged, everyone wants to educate kids and to make a strong economy. If they disagree on how to accomplish these common goals, then they should work out clear differences that can be offered to the electorate. If differences on such issues are minor, then they could agree to use cross party committees to manage those things and focus elections on their bigger differences.

If that was all accomplished, politicians would stand for clear values and clear approaches. They would no longer have to pretend that they want exactly the same things and avoiding every answering a question.

Our parties served the country well in the 20th century. It has become absolutely clear that they are not suited to the 21st. We do not need unity and a return to normal, because that normal only worked for a fraction of the population. We don’t need any more Blairs, any more fudges, any more pretense. We do need a total remix, a redesign, a re-crystallization along new axes, with very different parties that different people can vote for.

On Independence Day, remember that the most important independence is independence of thought

Division is the most obvious observation of the West right now. The causes of it are probably many but one of the biggest must be the reinforcement of views that people experience due to today’s media and especially social media. People tend to read news from sources that agree with them, and while immersed in a crowd of others sharing the same views, any biases they had quickly seem to be the norm. In the absence of face to face counterbalances, extreme views may be shared, normalized, and drift towards extremes is enabled. Demonisation of those with opposing views often follows. This is one of the two main themes of my new book Society Tomorrow, the other being the trend towards 1984, which is somewhat related since censorship follows from division..

It is healthy to make sure you are exposed to views across the field. When you regularly see the same news with very different spins, and notice which news doesn’t even appear in some channels, it makes you less vulnerable to bias. If you end up disagreeing with some people, that is fine; better to be right than popular. Other independent thinkers won’t dump you just because you disagree with them. Only clones will, and you should ask whether they matter that much.

Bias is an error source, it is not healthy. You can’t make good models of the world if you can’t filter bias, you can’t make good predictions. Independent thought is healthy, even when it is critical or skeptical. It is right to challenge what you are told, not to rejoice that it agrees with what you already believed. Learning to filter bias from the channels you expose yourself to means your conclusions, your thoughts, and your insights are your own. Your mind is your own, not just another clone.

Theoretical freedom means nothing if your mind has been captured and enslaved.

Celebrate Independence Day by breaking free from your daily read, or making sure you start reading other sources too. Watch news channels that you find supremely irritating sometimes. Follow people you profoundly disagree with. Stay civil, but more importantly, stay independent. Liberate your consciousness, set your mind free.

 

Cellular blockchain, cellular bitcoin

Bitcoin has been around a while and the blockchain foundations on which it is built are extending organically into other areas.

Blockchain is a strongly encrypted distributed database, a ledger that records every transaction. That’s all fine, it works OK, and it doesn’t need fixed.

However, for some applications or new cryptocurrencies, there may be some benefit in making a cellular blockchain to limit database size, protect against network outage, and harden defenses against any local decryption. These may become important as cyber-terrorism increases and as quantum computing develops. They would also be more suited to micro-transactions and micro-currencies.

If you’ve made it this far, you almost certainly don’t need any further explanation.

1984 clock moves back to 23 June 1983

I set the time on my 1984 clock initially at 1st July 1983:

https://timeguide.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/inspired-by-the-doomsday-clock-the-1984-clock-is-at-july-1st-1983/

I think our recent referendum in the UK exposed a few of the nastier processes that were leading people to censor discussion of sensitive issues such as immigration, and the increasing contempt of some leaders for ordinary people. It also made many people more aware of the division caused by name-calling that fed self-censorship and I believe some learning from that will foster kinder future campaigns and more open discussion. People will have learned that name-calling and no-platforming areas of discussion is counterproductive. Freedom of speech is a little healthier today than a few days ago.

Brexit wasn’t about 1984 but the campaigning increased awareness in people of how leaders behave, the increased engagement in democracy, erosion of barriers to discussion and especially the potential consequences if you don’t bother to vote. Regardless of the outcome, which I think is wonderful in any case, it has increased resilience of the UK against the forces of 1984. It has also caused similar ripples in other countries that will bring increased awareness of dark forces.

In recognition of that, setting it back a week to not-entirely-coincidentally the day of the referendum seems appropriate.

The 1984 clock now shows 23 June 1983.

Calls for a United Ireland should wait a while

At the height of The Troubles, the North and South were very different places. Religion was important, economies performed differently, and attitudes to life were different between the communities. As religion became less important and as the EU started to dominate, as people aged and as economies converged, difference have become a lot less. Apart from ancestry and memories, there isn’t anywhere near as much difference now. There has never been a better time for nationalists to demand a vote on a United Ireland because the opposition to it right at the moment is probably the lowest it has ever been. Most (55%) of people in the North wanted to stay in the EU, so that offsets some of the opposition to becoming part of Ireland instead of staying in a Brexit UK. For some people, especially the young, the old emotions that drove the Troubles are quite alien and Brexit could be a strong deciding factor. Many remainers have already applied for Irish passports. If a United Ireland vote were to be magically organised within a few days or weeks, (the Ukraine managed to organise a referendum in two weeks) then with today’s demographics and circumstances, it is not unimaginable that it could win.

However, not everyone is young or such a remainer that they’d rather leave the UK and stay part of the EU. Many people still feel pain from the Troubles or the same loyalties and though both sides have admirably set aside old grievances to live together in peace with one another, that doesn’t mean those grievances have vanished. People are still not all the same, they are simply managing to negotiate and compromise instead of fighting, to live in peace better. Very many of the Unionist population would still find the idea of leaving the UK and joining with the South intolerable, regardless of the EU, and forcing a vote could well re-ignite tensions. Needlessly.

Of course nationalist want a United Ireland, but it would be far better for everyone to avoid pushing such a vote yet. The Troubles were not fun for anyone, and the peace that has been established is surely worth far more even to Nationalists than getting a United Ireland a few years earlier by hurrying to capitalise on a short term turbulence during Brexit.

A few years down the road, it is highly likely that economic performance of the UK and the South will have diverged a little, but not much. It is also likely that most all the advantages offered by EU membership will have been retained. Even if it still exists, the EU will be less significant because other countries may have left, new trade agreements will have formed, and sensible negotiation of trade and movement among friends will ensure a perfectly civilized and amicable Europe. The United States of Europe idea will certainly have been long buried.

Also, in a few years time, old emotions will have had a few more years to evaporate. Many of the old will have gone to their graves in peace, young kids will be young adults. Peace and living together in harmony will have had a few more years of being the norm, and will be far more resilient. It will be a better time then to consider asking again for a vote.

Even though I lived in Belfast all the way through the Troubles, I have no axe to grind at all on which way that vote should go. I don’t even care whether Northern Ireland stays in the UK or not. It matters to some but the chances of Nationalists finally getting their way are more likely to increase than decrease over the next few years. Sure, there is strong temptation to hurry to strike while the iron is so obviously hot, but it would be wiser for them to wait just a few more years for everyone’s benefit.

Putting a hypothetical but feasible date on it, surely it’s better to aim for a peaceful United Ireland in 2025 than risk a return to violence and bad relations just to get there a little quicker?

Diabetes: Electronically controlled drug delivery via smart membrane

This is an invention I made in 2001 as part of my active skin suite to help diabetics. I’ve just been told I am another of the zillions of diabetics in the world so was reminded of it.

This wasn’t feasible in 2001 but it will be very soon, and could be an ideal way of monitoring blood glucose and insulin levels, checking with clinic AI for the correct does, and then opening the membrane pores just enough and long enough to allow the right dose of insulin to pass through. Obviously pore and drug particle design have to be coordinated, but this should be totally feasible. Here’s some pics:

Active skin principles

Active skin principles

Drug delivery overview

Drug delivery overview

Drug delivery mechanism

Drug delivery mechanism

Freedom!

What a glorious day for the UK!

After a long and bitter fight with far too much unnecessary nastiness, the UK finally voted to walk away from the dead weight of the slowest growing regional economy in the world that was set on a path to inevitable destruction. In doing so, we will certainly now be followed by some other EU countries. Across all the EU, many people did not want to be forced into a United States of Europe, many don’t even want to be part of the EU at all. Now most will be able to demand the choice in their countries too, and some at least will follow. They will likely negotiate free trade deals with one another, without the baggage of political union.

A much smaller EU will be forced to either disband, or reform into a simpler free trade group, and won’t be able to dictate terms to the countries that have left.

After much turbulence and quite a few years, today’s EU will have reformed into a simple free trade block, or possibly three. Northern EU countries don’t share the same values as southern ones, and the new Eastern members may join together or join a North or South European trade block.

Freedom generates better quality of life, enterprise, wealth, and short term financial turbulence is just that, short term. When we emerge, and it will take time, we can all have a better future.

However, the bitterness we saw in this campaign, the lies, fear-mongering, and most of all the offensive name calling will not go away quickly. A lot of damage has been done and resentment built up. We wake to a country facing fantastic new opportunity and freedom, but a country divided. We must now take great care to diffuse that, to restore our traditions of living peacefully and amicably alongside others with whom we disagree. There will likely be more squabbling, there will be demonstrations, more name calling, maybe even some riots as some protest, throws blame, accusations, and stones. That needs good leadership, so it is essential that Cameron and Osborne at the very least are replaced.

Britain has some fine politicians, and some less fine. The campaign has shown clearly which are which. Some MPs on both sides of the campaign and across all parties showed their leadership ability. Some did so while maintaining proper respect for others, always acting with dignity, offering vision and sense, while others offered little more than threats and abuse. With the right leaders in charge, unity can be restored.

It is a different world today. The ripples from this referendum will transform politics across the EU and even the USA. I am excited. We know now that we will be free to do as we will, to run our country as we decide. Division is a very real problem but it can be repaired by good leadership, and together we can make the future genuinely better, not just for the UK, but for the rest of the EU, Norway and Switzerland.

Half the population didn’t get what they wanted, but the right decision was made and they will still reap the benefits even if they didn’t predict them. Provided of course that they accept the new situation positively and we can all work together again.

We can do that. This morning, the short term forecast is for unsettled weather, but the long term future looks great for everyone.

New book: Society Tomorrow

It’s been a while since my last blog. That’s because I’ve been writing another book, my 8th so far. Not the one I was doing on future fashion, which went on the back burner for a while, I’ve only written a third of that one, unless I put it out as a very short book.

This one follows on from You Tomorrow and is called Society Tomorrow, 20% shorter at 90,000 words. It is ready to publish now, so I’m just waiting for feedback from a few people before hitting the button.

Frontcover

Here’s the introduction:

The one thing that we all share is that we will get older over the next few decades. Rapid change affects everyone, but older people don’t always feel the same effects as younger people, and even if we keep up easily today, some of us may find it harder tomorrow. Society will change, in its demographic and ethnic makeup, its values, its structure. We will live very differently. New stresses will come from both changing society and changing technology, but there is no real cause for pessimism. Many things will get better for older people too. We are certainly not heading towards utopia, but the overall quality of life for our ageing population will be significantly better in the future than it is today. In fact, most of the problems ahead are related to quality of life issues in society as a whole, and simply reflect the fact that if you don’t have to worry as much about poor health or poverty, something else will still occupy your mind.

This book follows on from 2013’s You Tomorrow, which is a guide to future life as an individual. It also slightly overlaps my 2013 book Total Sustainability which looks in part at future economic and social issues as part of achieving sustainability too. Rather than replicating topics, this book updates or omits them if they have already been addressed in those two companion books. As a general theme, it looks at wider society and the bigger picture, drawing out implications for both individuals and for society as a whole to deal with. There are plenty to pick from.

If there is one theme that plays through the whole book, it is a strong warning of the problem of increasing polarisation between people of left and right political persuasion. The political centre is being eroded quickly at the moment throughout the West, but alarmingly this does not seem so much to be a passing phase as a longer term trend. With all the potential benefits from future technology, we risk undermining the very fabric of our society. I remain optimistic because it can only be a matter of time before sense prevails and the trend reverses. One day the relative harmony of living peacefully side by side with those with whom we disagree will be restored, by future leaders of higher quality than those we have today.

Otherwise, whereas people used to tolerate each other’s differences, I fear that this increasing intolerance of those who don’t share the same values could lead to conflict if we don’t address it adequately. That intolerance currently manifests itself in increasing authoritarianism, surveillance, and an insidious creep towards George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The worst offenders seem to be our young people, with students seemingly proud of trying to ostracise anyone who dares agree with what they think is correct. Being students, their views hold many self-contradictions and clear lack of thought, but they appear to be building walls to keep any attempt at different thought away.

Altogether, this increasing divide, built largely from sanctimony, is a very dangerous trend, and will take time to reverse even when it is addressed. At the moment, it is still worsening rapidly.

So we face significant dangers, mostly self-inflicted, but we also have hope. The future offers wonderful potential for health, happiness, peace, prosperity. As I address the significant problems lying ahead, I never lose my optimism that they are soluble, but if we are to solve problems, we must first recognize them for what they are and muster the willingness to deal with them. On the current balance of forces, even if we avoid outright civil war, the future looks very much like a gilded cage. We must not ignore the threats. We must acknowledge them, and deal with them.

Then we can all reap the rich rewards the future has to offer.

It will be out soon.

Guest Post: Reed and Bhs are inevitable collateral damage in today’s omni-channel sales and marketing world

Another guest post from Christopher Moseley, (details below)

Reed and Bhs are inevitable collateral damage in today’s omni-channel sales and marketing world

It’s not hard not to get a little bit nostalgic about the death throes of well-known British High Street brands. Woollies was the first big name in living memory to get killed off in the Great War of the Internet versus the High Street; Austin Reed and Bhs are the very latest casualties.

Philip Green’s soon to face a grilling from a Commons committee, and no doubt the sense of outrage and accusations of asset stripping will heighten the tensions and anger associated with job losses and the of dying British High Street brands. As to Austin Reed, it’s hard to see a well-heeled target figure stepping forward to face similar political brickbats: it just kind of, well, died away.

Asset stripping aside it’s hard to see how tired old brands like Bhs might have survived in a world where choice is a touch screen away. The venerable British High Street, and the myriad shops which struggle to stay solvent within the confines of her bricks and mortar structure, still has a white knight in the form of Mary Portas, but it’s clear that the writing is on the, er, shop window … it reads, ‘Closing Down’.

Twenty or so years ago if I had wanted to buy a set of headphones I would have strolled to my nearest retailers to make my purchase.  In the 2010s, close as I am to my local high street, I can simply go online. It’s the only viable decision – there’s simply a much bigger choice, and greater availability.

And with a smartphone in hand, or a laptop or tablet at my side, I’m able to quickly locate a wealth of information about my desired product before being given a list of potential suppliers – often ranked by reliability and item price.

Why would I ‘go’ bricks and mortar, when with a simple click my goods can be delivered to my house the very next day?

Why break into a bipedal sweat when one can surf?

Omni-channel selling provides consumers with numerous channels through which they can interact with and purchase from retail businesses. There’s all the attendant information about products, the means to interact with technical experts, and a giddy range of devices: smartphones, desktops, notebooks to browse on.

The 24-7 shopping experience

The obvious advantage of Internet shopping is that is that one can shop well after the High Street curfew of 5:30pm. We can all shop to heart’s content, on the couch, in the bath, or in a tent on Ben Nevis. Businesses that can’t cater for the around-the-clock punters face obliteration. Why walk?

The future’s bespoke, more interesting and built for humans

Around 16 years ago, when the first corrosive impact of the Internet was being felt in the High Street, I once tried to stage a media stunt. I proposed a debate between several well-known exponents of retail, pitted against some toughies (clients actually) who worked in e-commerce. If memory serves I’d wanted to co-opt a Selfridges or Harrods window to conduct the debate. It would have been fab I think.

It never happened – I guess the issue wasn’t quite sufficiently in the public eye back in ’00.

It’s a different story today. We’re right in the middle of a bloodbath and it’s hard to see a future for the great British High Street, other than, perhaps, this is an opportunity to return to something rather old-fashioned, something much more traditional.

If there is a future for the High Street, it won’t be a continuation of today’s confection of identikit chain stores, but rather much akin to the boutique butcher, baker and candlestick maker of yesteryear. Throw in some vibrant street markets, some residential housing, and one has something like the world of the Edwardian era.

So, the mantra of the High Street in the 2020s might just be, ‘Let’s party like it’s 1899 …’

Chris Moseley

Head of Public Relations, Merchant Marketing Group

Tel +44 238022 5478

Future sex, gender and design

This is a presentation I made for the Eindhoven Design Academy. It is mostly self-explanatory

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