Stuff. January 2018.

A buffet of thoughts at the beginning of 2018 and nearly my 42nd birthday. This picks up from my previous posts about my 40th birthdayspace/sci-fi and feminism. Things on my mind …

People. My kids and husband, my family and friends: their health and happiness. I didn’t post much on Facebook over xmas, sometimes I feel a bit like it’s all humble-bragging but I really am lucky when it comes to family. And I enjoy making new friends, glad to have made more in 2017.

Big world stuff. Brexit and Trump. I am proud to be a Remainder/Remoaner and I hope that Labour will get an opportunity to counter Brexit in a way that the Tory press won’t rip them apart for. And Trump, Trump, Trumpety Trump, wtaf!? Please make it stop.

My job and the opportunities for technology support for teaching and research. How I manage, how I plan, how I influence decisions. Being a woman in IT. Being professional services staff in a University. How to collaborate with my great colleagues to make progress, however subtle or predictable: keeping things moving. 

Digital. Part of my job is about understanding “digital”. To me “digitisation” is about turning analogue to digital, but I’ve never had much time for the word “digitalisation”, it’s too much like “electrification”: too broad to be useful. One of the podcasts on 50 things that made the modern economy talked about how long it it took for factories to redesign to benefit from electricity: often decades. The opportunity to change processes only arises sometimes, and the people in charge of the redesign need to have the appetite for change. So it’s not surprising that organisations are not yet fully “transformed” by digital. Its not digital pixie dust. It takes time for change to cycle through and it needs people like me and my husband and my peers to patiently assist that transition. So maybe digitalisation is a useful word after all.

The Future. The last few months I find myself speculating about the future, the bigger picture. I’ve read some of Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, the Ashlee Vance Elon Musk biography, and various pieces on economic ideas and technology futures. What follows is my musings on that …

Anything to do with Elon Musk. SpaceX, Tesla, tunneling, solar … he thinks big futures. He’s obviously ruthless and probably a nightmare to know, but I love the mix of business models, technology and strategic economic thinking. He pays his taxes, he worries about AI, he open sources their engineering. Fascinating.

Autonomous Vehicles
. They will transform our roads, our models of car ownership, our use of space. The transition will take decades, and that might be the most interesting and challenging phase. Shared ownership, multi-function vehicles, melding public transport concepts with intelligent routing: I look forward to it!

Waste, Recycling and Food. When I think of what might change, I think this whole area is ready for reform. Our century-old sewage systems, our over use of plastic packaging, the politics of food supply chains, meat, organic, food biodiversity. Shout out to my talented film-making cousin Holly Black for educating me with her film about food. Here’s a thought: will we eventually have homes that include plug-in pipe sockets and flaps with automated food deliveries and waste removal? So much could change.

Intersectional Feminism. I like to think of myself as a confident feminist and progressive. I’m 100% behind Black Lives Matter, Everyday Sexism and Me Too. But if I’m honest I haven’t kept up with the thinking around transgender and there are things I’ve yet to process. The onus is on me to do that, and I am mindful of this piece: Are you an Ally?. My kids views are so much more enlightened than social views when I was young. They are so much more liberal/accepting/open on disability, mental health, race and gender. That gives me hope that things do change and will change.

Data Privacy. I’ve struggled with this, as I think privacy is a blip in history. I think of the swathe of humanity living in villages, and of novels by George Eliot and Jane Austen: how people’s real or misunderstood histories catch up with them, and I wonder why we expect to avoid that. So I found Mike Caulfield’s “some predictions” post section on “the erosion of privacy” very timely “the mailman doesn’t get to read my mail”. I’m still not quite sure what I think.

Universal Basic Income. This policy concept is growing in popularity and being piloted. It could be a game changer, mitigating the impact of robotisation/AI replacing human jobs, rewarding unpaid labour such as caring and community work, and reducing the overheads of means-testing. It’s a radical concept and whatever happens the idea is shaping  the future: I’ll be watching that space with interest.

And on a final note: a little part of my brain is always reserved for boots, good food and music. Because yes.

Happy New Year!


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