Back from Lift Marseille

Great conference. Need to catch up several weeks of sleep 🙂 The videos are being uploaded so check them out, we now spread them to Vimeo, Dailymotion, or Blip almost any platform you like!

Here is  the best talk of the conference, at least if you believe the audience’s feedback. When we tried to stop Gunter as he was beyond timing, we almost had a rebellion in the room. A rebellion minus two persons, the speakers who had to take the stage after him 😉

Great, great talk, amazing guy, I got to meet him during Sunday’s brunches, and several projects are already being discussed…


24h to Lift France

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It was fun to capture a few images. Let’s see if I can get better at this.

Reinventing education

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire
William Butler Yeats

“Educated, confident, creative people are dangerous to the status quo, dangerous to a centralized economy, dangerous to a centralized system of command and control. Those in power don’t want you educated. They want you schooled.”
PS Pirro, 101 Reasons Why I’m An Unschooler

Great discussion about education with Philippe Tarbouriech and Salman Farmanfarmaian at our latest entrepreneur gathering. It started when we discussed Philippe’s trip to India to make pictures of Hole in the wall, a project we all discovered at Lift07 and that has, since, inspired Slumdog millionaire.

Sugata’s project showed that a model we took for granted (an adult teaching kids) could be reinvented in an unexpected way; and that in some cases (rural  India) there was actually no other choice than coming up with something new for millions of kids in need of knowledge. Education is evolving, and these shifts are of course driven by new needs, namely:

  • In the rich world, the need to adapt to a generation of kids who are more unique, social, connected, autonomous, and collaborative, who sometimes know more than the professors themselves.
  • In the developing world, the need to adapt to the social context of millions who are left out of the traditional system.

The debate will certainly rage in the coming years. Interesting ideas are emerging:

  • Self education is not new
    We think that self-education is unintuitive and a bit weird. It might even be dangerous to leave kids alone, having to sort out the good from the bad?
    But isn’t it the way we learn how to speak? As babies we hear adults who speak good or bad, dirty or classy words. In the end we make sense of all this and learn by ourselves one of the most complicated thing in the world: a language.
  • Collaborative learning beats top down processes
    Learning does not have to be a lonely, humbling, boring, painful experience.
    One of the biggest contradiction of our system is that it wants to prepare us for professional life but creates a different framework than the one we will find at the end of our studies. Why don’t schools tolerate two of the resources one has to master to survive in a corporate environment, namely information retrieval (Google, encyclopedias, books) and collaboration with co-workers. Why can’t we call a knowledgeable person or use Google during exams when we can at work?
    Collaboration is being experimented, notably in computer games. Students are together in a virtual world, each facing a mathematical or logical challenge. When a student is done with his challenge he can help others who are slower. No one can go to the next level unless every single puzzle has been solved. Interesting idea.
  • Education can be free
    Bing Gordon at a recent “hacking education” event: “Knowledge is a non-rival good. If I eat an apple, you cannot also eat that same apple; but if I learn something, there is no reason you cannot also learn that thing“.
    Just as software and music tend to become more open and accessible under the assaults of new distribution channels (the web) and vanishing barriers to entry, knowledge is held by a large number of persons who, bearing a well designed and rewarding framework, will want to share what they know, and make it accessible to the world. Things like the University of people or Open Course Ware are already happening.
  • Diplomas are increasingly irrelevant
    We know how the most admired entrepreneurs in the world don’t have anything else than post-fame honoris causa diplomas. Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, Bill Gates. Our very coveted paper certificates are challenged in that way, but not only. What if our credentials were stored online and freely accessible via Google, replaced by powerful references like peers and clients endorsements, online portfolios, press articles, etc. Why not have decentralized certification mechanism, one where you get a diploma after a certain number of trusted sources (universities, but also clients, co-workers, bosses, etc) endorse you? Follow a class at MIT, do an internship at Microsoft, write an article for the New York Times, get a degree from these three institutions. I even think there is a nice business model here…

Education is a fascinating topic, one that is hard to deal with because everybody has an opinion on how it should happen. We are about to see a brutal evolution, because what we have in front of us might be one of the biggest ever gap between two generations, between the digital migrants and the digital natives.

Who will vehemently resist these ideas? Teachers of course! Like journalists when they saw millions of web users invade their territory, they will instinctively want to fight back and protect their experts status. It is a lost war, the wrong approach. Educators will eventually settle in their new – and improved – place in society. After all, isn’t it more rewarding to collaborate than to direct, monitor, grade, and punish?

Links (thanks Salman!): An Unschooling Manifesto, Hacking Education.

Military snake robot

Robotic war is an intriguing subject. On one side it’s really scary, on the other it means more women will be involved, possibly a reason to hope for more civilized conflicts. Here is the latest invention of the Israeli army:

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Living in a “community of emotions”

Here is a quote from Paul Virilio discussing the impact of media on society in a recent French TV show:

There is a phenomena of globalization of affects, a sort of “community of emotions” replacing the community of interests. The community of interests is an economical community, social classes, rich and poor. The community of emotions is something completely new and that can not be mastered by political power.

This is one of the topics that intrigues me the most these days. How we tend to forget our long term interests because of emotions, served in daily and easy to consume capsules by mainstream and social media, all fighting for a bit of attention in the chaos we now have learned to live with.

Like the example I was giving in an earlier post: why is it acceptable to have thousands of policemen run after illegal immigrants when they only cost a fraction of what a trader can lose in a few seconds? Because until this particular crisis came up, immigrants were generating more emotions than bankers. Exactly what Virilio is talking about.

A community of emotions means a society built on patches, constantly trying to deal with the short term without considering the big picture. A community of emotions means a society less and less able to make solutions and problems match.

Maybe people will notice this phenomena, understand it, and become more hermetical to information. Or newsrooms might reinvent themselves, and start wondering if it makes sense to put on the front page of the local paper those sordid “fait-divers”. If a grandma has been attacked in a particularly cruel way somewhere on the planet, should all the senior citizens of the world be freaking out tonight? What exactly do we gain as a community from that news being spread all over?

Information comes with responsibilities. The web might have contributed – directly and indirectly – to make us forget this old adage. Are the side effects just around the corner?

Lift France in 10 days

In ten days I will be in Marseille for the first ever Lift France, an event we decided to co-organize with the Fing less than five months ago. It was quite a risky bet in these troubled times, but it is paying off: we have our most coherent and well built program ever, discussing a fundamental shift in society: how our relationship to objects is going to change in the near future, both because they will join our computer networks and because we will be able to influence them like never before. Sensors networks, open source objects, fab labs, home production, many many big changes ahead.

John Thackara, Edith Ackermann, Bruce Sterling, Dennis Pamlin, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet , Euan Semple, Philippe Lemoine and many more speakers.

Marseille is a city buzzing with ideas and creativity, and we will showcase more than 20 projects selected by Axelle Benaich, Eleonore de Lusignan and Laurent Bolli for their originality, and the fact they will make you think out of the box. Twenty is double the amount of projects we usually show, they were so many good propositions that we decided to integrate more than usual.

Eggregor 8 by Antonin Fourneau, what happens when 8 people play the same character in a game?

Magic’Sense by Olivier Eschapasse, Cyrille MICHAUT and Patrick Zucchetta, when the bar helps you connect with others.

Open-Source Washing Machine by France Cadet, Hélène Berger and Morgane Rebuffat, how recycled materials can be turned into a cheap and effective wash machine.

The Green Watch: City Pulse by Thierry Marcou, what happens if we all had a watch reporting on air quality?

Then there is the open program where we had to close submissions two weeks earlier than we usually do after being overflown with quality propositions. There will be workshops about marketing, art, hacking, fund raising, innovation in Africa, education, many topics proposed and moderated by the participants themselves.

Finally, we will be at an exceptional location at the Palais du Pharo, and carefully prepared social events will make sure everybody has a good and productive time, a must to reach our goal of creating new contacts and ideas for the 500 expected participant, among them ten of the most influential bloggers who were invited through a partnership with the OIF.

Our venue: the Palais du Pharo.

First conferences are always special, unique adventures where a new community is born, where a special energy shows up like last year at Lift Asia. Ten days to go, it will be hard to wait…

“Cellphone elbow”, “Blackberry thumbs” and “Wii shoulders”

Whoever is fascinated by how techology changes society (and vice versa) loves these small things that are both funny and revealing of how much innovations can change our habits in only a few years. The “cellphone elbow” is one of these small things, both anecdotical and very revealing. What is amazing is that it did not happen in 1985, when “mobile” phones were weighting several kilos.

Doctors see more cases of ‘cellphone elbow’
As people spend more time gabbing on cellphones, doctors in the U.S. say they are seeing more cases of numbness, tingling and pain from “cellphone elbow.” […]

“It’s quite interesting, actually,” said Jennifer Howie, a physiotherapist in Toronto. “Today, with technology, we have cellphone elbow but we commonly also see Blackberry thumbs and now Wii shoulders.”


Twitter update

The french have a saying that “Only stupid and dead people never change their opinion”. After closing my Twitter account I decided to give it another try, convinced by Lift09’s experience where Twitter clearly replaced blogs in the conference coverage. If it is where the audience is I will follow, having many things to communicate as an event organizer.

So here comes an update on all the accounts I and Lift use: is my personal account and /lift are for, well, you know what
is to follow my newest venture with Nicolas Nova and Fabien Girardin. Big news are coming to this channel in the near future as we have many changes in the pipe.

I am still puzzled by Twitter, a tool I think is very asymmetric: very useful if the masses would use it on a daily basis, but not giving enough value to individuals to make them want to contribute in the long term. Still it’s time for another test drive, let’s see where it takes us.