ideas worth sharing

nothing is stronger than an idea

Building a Digital Agenda

Four years have passed since the Portuguese Technological Plan was presented. Today, while I’m not longer professionally involved in the coordination of the Technological Plan, I cannot avoid sharing the huge privilege that it was to participate on this endeavor of transforming our country, towards progress and development. Today, as four years ago, Portugal needs a Digital Agenda to turn technological change into an economic opportunity!

I delivered a presentation recently, sharing my experience during the past four years. I share it below:

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Worlds as real as our own

I’ve recently listed to a talk by John Seely Brown (former chief scientist at the Xerox Corporation) in which he argued for the positive role games can play in preparing people for work, dealing with complex tasks while working as a team. He used World of Warcraft as an example of how online games can help you develop those skills. Well... I play WoW myself and spend maybe too much time online catching up with RSS and Twitter feeds, but the way in which we breathe technology has a somewhat bitter taste to me. A world in which we cannot separate real worlds from virtual worlds seems to be just around the corner. Even direct brain-machine interfaces are being developed while you read this. Are the nightmares of The Matrix or eXistenZ within our reach or have am I just been watching too much science-fiction? Watch this video. It made me wonder...

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Chain reaction

Friday evening, in Portugal, media merged in Portugal. The “Contemporâneos” (a sort of Portuguese 21st century Monty Pyton) made a great sketch. A parody to a Christmas solidarity song called “Salvem os ricos” (meaning “save the rich&rdquoWinking. If you’re reading this in English, you probably won’t be able to follow the inspired lyrics, but they managed to get some very nice guests and the subject couldn’t be more updated: the bailouts to troubled banks caught by the financial crisis.

A few moments after broadcast, the video had been uploaded to YouTube, generously linked in Twitter, posted extensively in blogs and brought to the homepage of the left-wing political party Bloco de Esquerda. Today, the Portuguese newspaper Público delivered the cherry on top of the cake: an opinion article by Rui Tavares drawing on the sketch. In just a couple of days, the Contemporâneos and their sketch reached almost everybody in Portugal. You can see it here, while we can still have a laugh on the crisis:



But is it as simple as they sing? Is our tax money being spent to “save the millionaires”? Would it have been better to let our banks go into bankruptcy?

Our economy breaths through the financial system and it thrives on thrust. If half the people would want to withdraw their deposits, each and every bank would instantly crumble. Most people would lose their money because all the financial institutions depend on each other. Our complex economy is based on interdependence. Without deposits, the banks can’t lend. Without money, people and companies don’t buy. Without sales, companies lay off people and their stock becomes junk. Without work nor investment a vicious cycle would emerge for our doom. That’s what happened in the 1930’s and that’s the risk we face. Should the governments let it happen? I don’t think so.

This is obviously a remarkable time for inspired comedians and opportunist politicians. This is also a great time to go deeper into understanding what’s happening. This video (which I found at a friend’s blog) isn’t as entertaining as the other, but it truly captures the movement of what’s going on. I hope that what the governments are doing is enough to prevent a chain reaction...

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What does complexity mean for the Gov 2.0?

(Post originally published here)

A key topic this morning [at the Cisco Public Services Summit, in Stockholm,] was how the world is becoming “more complex” and how it is changing in an unpredictable way. But what do we mean by these statements, besides that we cannot pretend to control anymore?

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At lunch time, a fellow delegate [at the conference] was talking about how it was unpredictable 10 years ago to think that his 6 year old daughter would be asking him to type an internet address to dress her doll online. That means, he said, that you can say anything about what will happen 10 years from now. Nobody has the faintest idea of what will emerge in this future which is not so far…

That is complexity. Complexity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity) expresses how “order” (a pattern) can result from interaction rather than from a blueprint or a plan. The order we see today (web 2.0, ubiquitous connectivity, globalisation, etc.) is a pattern which emerged out of the interacion of millions of people co-creating their future, which is our future, through their actions and decisions.

Taking complexity seriously draws our attention to how we are interdependent from each other in this process of co-creating the future. On the one hand, it has a positive value attached to it, related to how everyone has a voice in it. But, on the other hand, it bring up the anxiety for not being “in control”.

It is difficult for any manager, in the public or private sector, to acknowledge that he or she is not in control of what’s happening, because he is nevertheless accountable for the results. I believe that this tension, this paradox of being accountable while not in control, is what makes it difficult to take this complex, interdependent and connected world into full account.

Moving from a “broadcast model” of democracy (in which you can have a say every 4 or 5 years), to a “gov 2.0″ model of democracy (in which you can always have a say), means that the business of government becomes even more unpredictable. It’s unknown territory, in which novelty can arise but no one can fully control the power dynamics which may emerge from that change. Are our institutions ready for that? The hard truth is that, ready or not, that change is already happening. The choice then become either to lead it or follow it…

What do you think?
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We don't know as much as we think we do...

Plane travels are unique opportunities to read and watch stuff that was saved for “when I have time”. Yesterday, while flying to Brussels towards another meeting, I divided my time between Don Tapscott’s latest book (comment coming, as soon as I finish it) and some TED Talks that I had saved for latter.

That was how I stubbled upon Jonathan Drori’s fascinating account on the distinction between what we think we know and what we actually know. Drori argues that the dominant approach to teaching may actually hinder our undestanding of the world instead of enhancing it. Controversial? Of course it is, but he starts his talk proposing four questions to the audience:

- From where does the three get the stuff that makes up a wooden desk?
- Can you light a little torch-bulb with a battery, a bulb and one piece of wire?
- Why is it hotter in summer than in winter?
- Can you draw a diagram of the Solar System?

Check the answers in the video. You may be surprised...



PS: Check Nokia’s add in the end! It reminds me of “Epic2015”...
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Shift happens...

As the financial crisis rests during weekend and today’s floods are gone, this looks like a good time to share a video. It was shown to me yesterday but it’s been around since February 2007. Shift happens, and sometimes it’s good to put things into perspective...

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The new "butterfly effect"

The “butterfly effect” is one of better known aspects of the chaos theory. It shows how a butterfly flapping its wings over Tokyo can unleash a storm over New York. This effect came out of Edward Lorenz’s work as a way to illustrate how small causes can lead to large and unpredictable effects. To make it simple, this is the most important notion one can learn from chaos.

The “butterfly effect” crossed my mind this morning after following a link to the “girl effect”. Just as the chaos notion, how important can a girl be to the future of the human kind? See the answer at The Girl Effect.

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