Philip Sheldrake

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Tag: human interface

Why decentralization needs more than cryptonetworks – the Internetome

Aldous Huxley (1937) regarded the decentralization of industry and government necessary for a better society. Norbert Wiener’s insights (1950) into the dynamics and ethics of humans and large computer systems hinted at the advantages. Marshall McLuhan (1962) anticipated a shift from the centralized mechanical age to the decentralized electronic age, coining the term global village as shorthand for such a welcome outcome. E.F. Schumacher (1973) considered decentralization allied with freedom and one of “the truths revealed by nature’s living processes”. Steven Levy’s hacker ethic (1984) includes the tenet “mistrust authority – promote decentralization”. And Nicholas Negroponte (1995) regards decentralization as one of the four cardinal virtues of the information society (alongside globalization, harmonization and empowerment).

When centralization is mediated by an organization, governmental or corporate, its best interests must be aligned perfectly and continuously with the parties subject to its gravity in the mediating context – otherwise decentralization must be preferred to avoid the appropriation and erosion of those parties' valuable agency. Importantly, decentralization demands decentralization at every level without exception for any exception would be centralization. By definition.

This post aims to scope the challenge that still lies ahead to secure decentralization even with the rise and rise of cryptonetworks such as Ethereum. For more information about decentralization in general and why it's important, see Decentralization – a deep cause of causes you care about deeply, written for the World Wide Web Foundation.

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Work IT: bring-you-and-your-own-everything

your-own-everything

First published to Gigaom Research.

Cast your mind back a decade or more. Did you request specific hardware from your company’s IT team? If so, you started a trend that continues to play out to this day, and will continue to its logical and exciting conclusion.

You may or may not have been successful in your request given IT’s historic intransigence, but nowadays many of us expect to rock up to work with the laptop and tablet and smartphone of our choosing – often our own – and expect the IT team’s full accommodation.

We’re also bringing our own applications. Non-IT staff have adopted software-as-a-service without necessarily going through their IT colleagues. Yammer, Trello and Slack for example. Perhaps Google Docs crept in without organization-wide adoption of Google for Work. Meeting schedulers. Note-takers. Expense trackers. Skype. Dropbox. Instagram. The list is as long as the kind of things you need to get done.

It’s useful to think of this in terms of Enterprise IT and Work IT. The enterprise owns Enterprise IT whereas the worker owns Work IT. In simple terms, Enterprise IT is focused on the organization, Work IT on organizing. Enterprise IT is top-down with the starting position of locking everything down, whereas Work IT is bottom-up, thriving by facilitating sharing and openness. Read more

The hi:project, social business and Flat Army

Dan Pontefract Flat Army and the hi:project
I help organisations work better, so how on Earth is that connected to the hi:project? Given I dedicate not a small fraction of my time to this non-profit endeavour, I'm asked on occasion to explain how the two are related.

The 'HI' of the hi:project stands for human interface. It's our way of describing the technology we think should and will largely supplant the user interface, the UI. Here's how I've begun to explain it of late ...

When we approach digital, we have a natural propensity to digitize the pre-digital; after all, that is all we know. That's how we ended up sticking an 'e' in front of mail for example, and went from having desktops, files and folders to, well, desktops, files and folders.

Yet digital has unprecedented qualities – it just takes us a while to discover and exploit them. It's only with the passing of decades for example that organisations can now explore alternatives to email. And filing stuff looks increasingly anachronistic with the power of near-instant search at our fingertips.

In the same way, the UI is attached to the digital machine / service today because pre-digital physical machines had a physical interface. Read more

Introducing the hi:project

hi-project blog post header
The hi:project launches today. It's a synthesis of many of the things I care about, from the original decentralizing visions for the Internet and Web, the aspiration that digital technologies can help people relate to each other better and understand each other better, and the idea that we might connect to each other without wondering who's monitoring our every action.

I believe that making all variety of organization more agile, more valuable, more useful starts by empowering all the individuals that play a role in the organization's success. The creation of mutual value begins with acquiring self-knowledge and mutual understanding to effect mutual influence, and this is exemplified by the question that concludes Attenzi - a social business story:

Do you help all the individuals associated with your organization (employees, customers, partners, suppliers, shareholders, etc.) build worthwhile relationships with each other and others, coalescing by need and desire, knowledge and capability and shared values, to create shared value?

Are we really going to answer this question satisfactorily by having everyone interface with the digital world similarly? By having them come to each machine in turn than have the machines come to them? I think not.

Introducing the hi:project. I hope you'll join in.