While in-person conversation continues to be fruitful amongst differing view points, I am concerned about the outrage you see on social media and some columnists. Granted, that the likes of Twitter is its own slice of the world, not necessarily reflective of the wider world - still, I find it worrying.
This was brought to life by Chimamanda - I’ve previously blogged about her advice on being a young feminist - recently she has written:
There are many social-media-savvy people who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion, who can fluidly pontificate on Twitter about kindness but are unable to actually show kindness. People whose social media lives are case studies in emotional aridity. People for whom friendship, and its expectations of loyalty and compassion and support, no longer matter. People who claim to love literature – the messy stories of our humanity – but are also monomaniacally obsessed with whatever is the prevailing ideological orthodoxy. People who demand that you denounce your friends for flimsy reasons in order to remain a member of the chosen puritan class.
People who ask you to ‘educate’ yourself while not having actually read any books themselves, while not being able to intelligently defend their own ideological positions, because by ‘educate,’ they actually mean ‘parrot what I say, flatten all nuance, wish away complexity.’
People who do not recognize that what they call a sophisticated take is really a simplistic mix of abstraction and orthodoxy – sophistication in this case being a showing-off of how au fait they are on the current version of ideological orthodoxy.
People who wield the words ‘violence’ and ‘weaponize’ like tarnished pitchforks. People who depend on obfuscation, who have no compassion for anybody genuinely curious or confused. Ask them a question and you are told that the answer is to repeat a mantra. Ask again for clarity and be accused of violence. (How ironic, speaking of violence, that it is one of these two who encouraged Twitter followers to pick up machetes and attack me.)
And so we have a generation of young people on social media so terrified of having the wrong opinions that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to think and to learn and to grow.
I have spoken to young people who tell me they are terrified to tweet anything, that they read and re-read their tweets because they fear they will be attacked by their own. The assumption of good faith is dead. What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.
The whole of the third section of her piece rings with truth to me.
There are nuances (as the NYT article on the piece looks at) because the feud she is involved in also touches upon the identity and trans debate, but that aside (and there is a seperate debate to be had there) the wider worry is the increasing outrage on social media but with people being disingenous.
I would liken it to what we can see in some of the sustainability space. There are companies who jump loops to recast their business model as being part of some environmental thinking whereas they are really not or at least no different to before. Investment bankers are cyncially trying to garner business this way and I think some people are being fooled or letting themselves be fooled. The heart of it is empty. This trend is not new, it's always been around in some shape.
I am running a poll on Linkedin (because no one sees me on Twitter) on what people think the 2100 temperature rise will be based on current policy.
My 150+ poll - statistically unsound (but should reflect a more sophisticated audience) has this spread of answers.
These answers don’t seem to correspond with the papers I am seeing such as this analysis.
Maybe it’s the correct strategy but it seems to me that it means the climate communication is not clear here.
I’ve awarded a ThenDoBetter Grant to David Blanc to help writing a book of chronicles from Mexican police officers. Details on the ThenDoBetter microgrants are here.
Book of chronicles from Mexican police officers. It still remains unclear the motivations that leads people to become a police officer in Mexico. On average, they have a monthly salary of 540 dollars. They also have to pay essential material for their duty such as boots, uniforms, bullets and even gas for the patrol. Some have never received training on how to use a weapon or driving a car. All of the above, added to the fact that every day 1.5 officers are killed in the country, and that they usually don´t have a life insurance. Despite this dramatic reality, thousands of police officers risk their lives and work under precarious conditions to protect citizens and provide in a certain way security. Certainly, there should be something praiseworthy.
Behind these statistics there are a lot of stories untold. Everyone tends to forget that police officers are humans too and they are actually the most affected. Therefore, I want to write a book of chronicles to visualize how being a Mexican police officer is one of the most dangerous, underpaid, intrinsically corrupt, and discriminatory profession, and raise awareness of how they manage to address major security problems with scarce resources and training. This project aims to change the citizen bad perspective of police officers and try to empathize in order to start reestablishing communication between both.
The book does not have the objective to justify police abuses nor say all police corporations are good. There are bad police officers. There are bad corporations. Any abuse should be investigated and punished. The book will focus on giving a different perspective and a new narrative on police perception, by outlining some experiences they face during duty.
The latest independent report on UK climate change risk is out. More than 60 risks and opportunities have been identified, fundamental to every aspect of life in the UK covering our natural environment, our health, our homes, the infrastructure on which we rely, and the economy.
-Alarmingly, this new evidence shows that the gap between the level of risk we face and the level of adaptation underway has widened. Adaptation action has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk.
-The UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively to these risks, but it has not yet done so. Acting now will be cheaper than waiting to deal with the consequences. Government must lead that action. Exec summary here and full report links here.
Film version of The Reason I Jump is coming to UK cinemas - earlier already in US. In many ways the book (I blogged a while ago on this) opened my eyes to what autistic thinking might be like more than any other one individual work has. If it is showing near you, I recommend you go see.
A glimpse inside the head of a 13-year-old autistic boy. The Reason I Jump: one boy's voice from the silence of autism by Naoki Higashida, David Mitchell, Keiko Yoshida. For parents, typicals, atypicals and everybody.
David Mitchell's introduction to the book. It starts: "The thirteen-year-old author of this book invites you, his reader, to imagine a daily life in which your faculty of speech is taken away. Explaining that you’re hungry, or tired, or in pain, is now as beyond your powers as a chat with a friend. I’d like to push the thought-experiment a little further. Now imagine that after you lose your ability to communicate, the editor-in-residence who orders your thoughts walks out without notice. The chances are that you never knew this mind-editor existed, but now that he or she has gone, you realize too late how the editor allowed your mind to function for all these years. A dam-burst of ideas, memories, impulses and thoughts is cascading over you, unstoppably. Your editor controlled this flow, diverting the vast majority away, and recommending just a tiny number for your conscious consideration. But now you’re on your own."
From the book:
WHY DO PEOPLE WITH AUTISM TALK SO LOUDLY AND WEIRDLY?
...Honest, I want to be nice and calm and quiet too! But even if we’re ordered to keep our mouths shut or to be quiet we simply don’t know how. Our voices are like our breathing, I feel, just coming out of our mouths, unconsciously...
WHY DO YOU ASK THE SAME QUESTIONS OVER AND OVER?
...The reason why? Because I very quickly forget what it is I’ve just heard. Inside my head there really isn’t such a big difference between what I was told just now, and what I heard a long, long time ago. So I do understand things, but my way of remembering them works differently from everyone else’s. I imagine a normal person’s memory is arranged continuously, like a line. My memory, however, is more like a pool of dots. I’m always ‘picking up’ these dots –by asking my questions –so I can arrive back at the memory that the dots represent...
...it lets us play with words. We aren’t good at conversation, and however hard we try, we’ll never speak as effortlessly as you do. The big exception, however, is words or phrases we’re very familiar with. Repeating these is great fun. It’s like a game of catch with a ball. Unlike the words we’re ordered to say, repeating questions we already know the answers to can be a pleasure –it’s playing with sound and rhythm.
WHY DO YOU DO THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN WHEN YOU’VE BEEN TOLD A MILLION TIMES NOT TO? ‘
...How many times do I have to tell you?!’ Us people with autism hear that all the time. Me, I’m always being told off for doing the same old things. It may look as if we’re being bad out of naughtiness, but honestly, we’re not.
...we feel terrible that yet again we’ve done what we’ve been told not to. But when the chance comes once more, we’ve pretty much forgotten about the last time and we just get carried away yet again. It’s as if something that isn’t us is urging us on. You must be thinking: ‘Is he never going to learn?’ We know we’re making you sad and upset, but it’s as if we don’t have any say in it, I’m afraid, and that’s the way it is. But please, whatever you do, don’t give up on us. We need your help.
➳A long read from the NYT on working in Amazon warehouse in NY over COVID. Leans negative but with some balance.
➳My conversation with Anton Howes on innovation history.
➳EV Truck, transport transition catalyst
Current events caused me to recall some of the last words of play theorist and practitioner Bernie De Koven. I asked him in 2017, when he had a terminal illness, what was a life worth living and I’ve had a look back at his legacy of Play.
There is a chance evolving COVID restrictions may have to postpone this but otherwise I’m co-hosting an outdoor mingle, 1 July at the Back of Westfield, Shepherd's Bush. Register: Mingle x Sustainability Accelerator meet-up, July 1. This is partly to introduce the Sustainability Accelerator and to socialise the idea for the 23 July Unconference (date in doubt).
Sustainability Accelerator Unconference on 23 July.
-Do you have ideas to solve climate challenges?
-Are you underwhelmed by traditional conferences?
-Are you seeking a forum for participatory cross-silo ideas discussion?
Come to the Sustainability Accelerator Unconference. We intend to solve the problem of unproductive sustainability conferences by applying participatory techniques (OpenSpace) in an UnConference. What? An innovative conference format bringing cross-silo thinkers and doers together on Sustainability challenges. Where: Chatham House, 23 July. 9.30am - 4.30pm approx.
Anton Howes is an innovation historian and policy thinker. He’s written a brilliant history of the RSA - the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce - arguably Britain’s national improvement agency over the last 260 years - and is the RSA’s Historian in Residence. My podcast and conversation with him was fun to do.
We discuss raising the prestige of innovators today, but consider it easy to say but harder to enact.
Anton argues for the benefits of a “Great Exhibition” as a direct mechanism to inspire an “improving” mindset - the type of mindset that leads to innovation.
Anton shares what he has discovered about how invention has happened in history; and whether stagnation has happened or not, recently - that it might be good to send a signal on the importance of innovation in any case. Why incremental innovation might be underrated, and why the process of innovation (ideas, iterations) is not publicised more.
Anton discusses evidence that formal education has not been needed for historic inventors (an improving mindset being potentially more important) and whether there are more than enough innovation prizes currently.
We have a strong section on problems with copyright and how rules around copyright might not be fit for purpose today and how to pronounce “gimcrack” - a useless invention - and why having more gimcracks might be a sign of healthy innovation.
A fascinating walk through innovation history. Self-recommending!
In my occasional podcast chat series I talk with birdgirl aka Mya-Rose Craig. We chat about her love of birding touching upon birdsong and the mysteries of migration. We discuss accessibility to nature, activism what in birding terms is a “lifer” and how to “pish”.
Pishing…. “Oh, no, it's a real thing, but I can't even do it very well. So this is going to be very embarrassing, but pishing is basically, birders making a funny sound that makes the birds around you go, what's that funny sound. So they hop out into the open to try and figure out what that funny sound is. And weirdly there are not many sounds that do this, pishing is one of the few that pretty much always works, at least with lots of birds. And this is going to be very embarrassing now, but it's basically like a, pshh, pshh, pshh like over and over louder and quieter. And for some reason that always gets the birds out.” Transcript and video here. And podcast version
I chat with Rebecca Giggs on her new book looking at humanity through the lens of the whale. There is video and a transcript. Self-recommending.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to forward this letter to anyone you think might be interested in signing up.
Archive and repeat words below. Stay well, Stay safe, Ben