The collapse of compassion

This month’s Wired magazine mentions a study by professor Paul Slovic who shows how empathy doesn’t scale. Humans respond to one person’s sufferings, but when the number of victims increases, we tend to care less and less as things become more abstract. Slovic is basically explaining why we tend to react more to Madeleine McCann‘s disappearance than to the Darfur Genocide.

Most people are caring and will exert great effort to rescue individual victims whose needy plight comes to their attention. These same good people, however, often become numbly indifferent to the plight of individuals who are “one of many” in a much greater problem.


That is a key information that the world’s NGOs and governments need to take into account to develop more effective ways to communicate and mobilize the masses.

LIFT and friends

The news is out: we are forming a nine events alliance (LIFT, Reboot, DLD, SIME, Kinnernet, Aula, Picnic, BLOGAK, LeWeb) to further develop our conferences and start working more closely together. This move was really needed to make the events better, simpler to attend, and coordinated in terms of date and topics covered. Concrete actions will become apparent in the coming months, we are still working on the structure and name of the alliance, but you get the idea, and it is a major MAJOR step in the development of LIFT and, we hope, the development of this continent as a place were creativity and innovation happens.

A picture we took earlier this year in Amsterdam when the discussions started. Almost all the conferences are represented (only Ola couldn't make it)

More details can be found in the LIFT press center.


I am back from Picnic, already feeling like I was suddenly put back into an motionless environment after three days of intense visual, mental and social stimulation. I saw the future of digital cinema, rode a segway, met Alex Steffen, hugged LIFT07 speakers like Adam, Ben, Sugata or Stefana, discovered Uffie and Man like me (two live acts that you should really attend if they come to a club near you), saw walking aliens and giant chickens, had a drink on the supperclub boat, etc etc… I owe Guido, Monique, Bas, Marleen and all the organizers a big box of chocolate for taking such great care of us.

Pictures by Guido Van Nispen (more).

Next conference is Stream, then Sime, Leweb and we’re up!

When was the last time your heart went boom?

What was the last time you saw something that dropped your jaw on the Internet? I’m not talking about the evolution of dance or laughing baby youtube video, I am talking about new apps, new ideas, new business models. What’s exciting these days? As we are putting the finishing touch to the LIFT08 program, that’s the question I am asking around here at Picnic.

Amazingly this question puzzles most of my interlocutors, triggers a long silence, and usually ends with a unenthusiastic “Facebook” answer. It seems Techcrunch is filled with clones of clones announcements these days (that’s not a knock on Techcrunch but on all of us, the entrepreneurs and innovators).

Where is the excitement? Where are the digg, twitter, facebook and second life of tomorrow? Nova (LIFT’s editorial manager) and me have some ideas, but I’d like to know what the readers of these blogs think.

Sociological study on mobile phone in France

The Experientia tribe translated a study published by the French association of mobile operators about the evolution of phone usage in recent years. In the early days, mobiles were accused of plunging users in hermetic bubbles. Truth is phones developed more collaboration and reinvented interactions.

This study shows the gap that exists between the anticipated impact of technologies and their real effects. It exposes a part of our intuitive resistance to progress, a mechanism where we tend to think that every new way of interacting with others is fatally less rich that the ones we grew up with. I am convinced my grandfather thinks our generation’s social life is dehumanized when he sees us express deep feelings on SMS. But the facts – and a few years of usage – seem to prove different. How long will we claim that people who build their friends base on Facebook are not enjoying a proper social life?

Findings from the French study:

1. The mobile phone is no longer just a personal device, it is integrated within collective practices both in the family and between friends.

2. The mobile phone goes from being personal to transitory, from intimate to visible.

3. New social conventions are being established around the mobile phone

4. The use of the mobile phone is governed more by example than by rules and prohibitions.

5. While the mobile phone is often presented as the token of an individualistic and atomised society, in reality one observes collective and collaborative behaviours around the mobile in the family and between friends.

6. The mobile phone is seen as a “average medium” that renews amateur photo and film practice.


In amsterdam for Picnic

We are in Amsterdam to attend Picnic. Many LIFTers are here, and I am looking forward to finally spend quality time with some of the LIFT07 speakers like Sugata Mitra or Ben Cerveny. Now that I am not the organizer of the event it gets possible! There is even someone from Daum, our main partner in Korea, attending the conference.

And if all things go as planned we will make a big announcement about LIFT in the coming hours… Stay tuned!

Facebook in the Swiss press

The Swiss press is intrigued by Facebook, articles are coming in about the social networks phenomena.

 Vous voici propulsé dans l’univers étonnant des réseaux sociaux du Web. Un monde où les gens de votre entourage courant ne sont pas là, mais où des demi-inconnus ou même de parfaits étrangers semblent pouvoir devenir, par contacts interposés, vos nouveaux meilleurs amis. En affaires comme dans la vie.

Tribune de Genève

Utopic city

Answering a question he was asked at LIFT Evening Seoul, Adam Greenfield wrote a long answer detailing what his perfect city would be like. Very inspiring thoughts, and an idea for a new book after Everyware?

My urban utopia would assemble these traits, kaleidoscopically:

– A setting as gemlike and as accessible to ocean, mountain, forest and desert as San Francisco’s, with winters no worse than that city’s, and summers like Helsinki;
– Lots of oxygenating green space;
– A zone or zones with the density, skyscraping verticality and walkability of Manhattan, or maybe central Hong Kong, for identity, legibility, and let’s face it, excitement;
– Boulevards with the leafy slope and generous broadness of Barcelona’s Ramblas or Tokyo’s Omotesando (at least as the latter existed up until 2003, i.e. prior to the destruction of the Dojunkai Apartments and their replacement with Ando’s jumped-up, pompous mall);
– Flabbergasting ethnolinguistic diversity, with all that implies for the eating experience;
– Lots of mixed-use close in to the core, and lower-density, more purely residential outlying districts with the easygoingness, human scale and hardy housing stock I remember from my adolescence in West Philadelphia;
– These connected to the downtown(s) and to each other by something like the vividly multimodal transitscape of central Amsterdam, where a road, a sidewalk and a bustling bikepath will all converge in crossing over a canal (and I’d thrown in Portland’s light-rail network);
– Enough cheap housing so that everyone who wants one has a room to call their own – and enough cheap warehouse/event space to support an arts community like Berlin’s;
– The 24-hour bustle and ad-hoc spirit of Seoul – where a vacant lot plus a grill plus a tent equals a nightspot, and in nice weather you don’t even need the tent;
– Something in the lay of the streets that recalls Daikanyama, or the winding backways between Shibuya and Ebisu;
– It’s undeniably haute-bourgeous, and titled perilously toward consumerism, but if you’re going to have commercial zones I’ve always felt that something works about Berkeley’s Fourth Street;
– Thousands of idiosyncratic small bookshops, cafés, bars and other service establishments;
– Moments of sudden, unexpected grace – a planted nook, a shaded arcade or courtyard, a humble bench;
– London cabs, Amsterdam bikes, old Saigon cyclos, Yamanote-sen trains – and while we’re at it, why not make it safe for motorcyclists so I can ride my SV once more;
– All of this undergirded by a thoughtfully-designed informatic infrastructure that sutures all these experiences together, that lets them speak themselves, that does what it needs to and then goes


Could the Chinese – who seem to be building cities around utopias these days – start working on that?

Bruce Sterling on the Estonian Cyberwar

Here is the talk Bruce Sterling gave at Korea University last week about the Estonian Cyberwar.

In this eye-opening presentation, Bruce explains what happened to Estonia earlier this year when the country’s infrastructures got down following by a massive DDOS attack. He shares his theory that a Russian group of hackers called the Zhelatin gang might be behind the attacks, and were actually only flexing the muscles of the world’s largest and most powerful botnet.

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Anybody who is involved in the infrastructure side of a large business should watch this. We’ve been warned.

Nice email to create traffic

I am sure the clicking ratio for that spam mailing is pretty high. Ego is such a powerful conveyor of traffic.

Dear Laurent,
Someone searched your email address “” on Rapleaf.

To view (or update) your profile, check out:

Why does this matter?

* Someone is interested in learning about you for business or personal reasons.
* You are now aware of what information about you is publicly available on the internet.
* You now have the opportunity to take control of your information and privacy online.

At Rapleaf, you can find such information as age, location, history, social network links, and more on over 60 million people. And you can make all or some of the information about yourself private.

-Your friends at