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  • Facebook, Cambridge Analytica… and Hippocrates

    Pixar’s Wall-E is one of the most prescient films you’ll ever see. Having literally trashed Planet Earth, humanity’s home is now a private company spaceship run by a HAL-like computer whose occupants have become so hooked on their comfortable, technology-dominated life that they’ve physically evolved to become practically incapable of even standing up.

    Digital technology has fundamentally, irreversibly changed the nature of our society.

    We instinctively know this to be true. But we also instinctively ignore the implications, because digital technology is just so… well, normal. Alexa is now just part of the family.

    More and more of our lives today is lived online, and shared with people across the globe. We use the web for information, for work, for curiosity, for escapism. We belong to virtual communities, and we share our experiences, our memories and our lives with people we’ve never met.

    This is in many ways a great thing. But it also raises a number of concerns, from how our personal data is used, to how algorithms do a lot more than just feed us targeted ads, to social media’s social impact - including shortening our attention-span and creating an “always on” culture of instant gratification.

    Much has already been written about how technology is dominating our lives, affecting our quality of life, eroding our privacy and changing our behaviour in ways we don’t fully understand, and this has come into sharp relief following the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal in particular.

    But technology can and should be very much a force for good.

    A reaction has already begun. We have learnt to appreciate the perils of the digital revolution. Communities of socially-conscious digital professionals and entrepreneurs are starting to get together under the banner of “humane tech”. The Centre for Humane Technology is a very exciting project, and I’m personally looking forward to reading Roger McNamee’s new book, Zucked.

    But this isn’t just something for digital geeks or entrepreneurs.

    Online communities like C4Urselves too have a role in ensuring that digital technology is both ethical and actually enhances our lives, instead of controlling them. Indeed, it is central to our entire ethos.

    We’re doing this in two steps:

    • First, do no harm. For us, that means avoiding the things which have started to take digital technology down a dark path, chief of which is an algorithm-driven model of increasingly insidious, targeted advertising. So we decided to break the mould, and rely entirely on partnerships and sponsorship from like-minded organisations which share our values. No algorithms, no targeted advertising.  
    • Second, actually do good. We want to encourage people to pause, slow down, look around - and notice things. Explore the world through someone else’s eyes. Rediscover things. Find beauty. Not amidst a jumble of clickbait, but through a single, ethical community dedicated to enhancing our experience of the world.

    We’re not destined to become a population of digital lotus-eaters. A different way is possible, one that puts technology back at the service of people, and the real world.

    But we’ve got to step up. Whether or not the digital world needs its own version of the Hippocratic Oath, what’s clear is that a Wild West approach to digital technology will no longer do. Digital technology today wields great power – and in the words of a famous celebrity, with great power comes great responsibility.

    It’s up to us, the digital generation, to recognise and embrace the many opportunities that technology affords us, and use them wisely.

    Today, technology risks dividing us. Let’s help people reconnect instead - with the world around us, and with each other.  


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  • Walking Videos - what's the big idea?

    "Not sure that’s a big idea” was actually my first reaction to the idea of walking videos. “Not much action”, “a bit slow”, “pretty ordinary” were all thoughts which sprang to mind.

    But not wanting to dismiss the idea out of hand, I thought I’d give it a go, very much helped by the fact that I was travelling in Asia and having many first-time experiences. So smartphone in hand, but as discreetly as possible, I began to capture shopping visits to the colourful food markets in Thailand, river boat trips in Japan and bike rides through Vietnamese rice paddy fields on video.

    I made two fairly instant revelations: that a couple of minutes is a very long time in the world of video and that filming would not be my future career. More importantly though and despite the extremely amateur quality, I also realised that the essence of a place or experience – be it the hustle and bustle of a market or the extreme tranquillity of the countryside - could be captured in a few precious seconds and THAT is what it was all about.

    Having got comfortable with taking them, sharing the videos was actually a relatively small step – the excitement of showing others what I had experienced far outweighed exposing my slightly wobbly camera style.   

    It was the different reactions that made me understand the true value of these brief videos.

    For me, watching them takes me back instantly to the moment - that brilliant day in that fascinating place with those engaging people….

    Family and friends back at home enjoyed having a window into that experience, seeing for themselves so to speak, and were curious to learn more (no doubt relieved that a few moving images saved them from a much lengthier verbal description).

    For those local to the video or who had had featured in it, there was a sense of pride, but also bemusement, that what for them was their everyday life was celebrated on film. But it almost invariably prompted the question “so what is it like where you live ? ”

    And that was a bit of an 'a-ha' moment – as I tried in vain to bridge the language gap and describe slices of life back home, I realised how useful it would be to have a short video to show them.

    So, fast forwarding a bit, my video taking habit has continued, blossomed even, since I got back home and I’ve tried to capture some of those simple things in my local area – a walk by the river, local markets & street food stalls – ordinary things for me, but perhaps different and out of the ordinary for some of those we met on our travels. I’ve done my best to share a few with friends we made, so they could see for themselves…

    I’ve also watched a lot more videos since I got back and they’ve helped me see a lot of new things and also different views of places I’ve been.

    So I’ve done a bit of a 180 and my initial caution has turned into true enthusiasm to encourage more video sharing, which is why I’m now writing this first blog on C4Urselves…my hope is that people all over the world will share their ordinary and everyday on video, and that others will watch and discover it is anything but ordinary to them.

    I’ve attached one of my first videos here…… I hope you enjoy it, but most of all I hope you’ll join us on this journey to celebrate the world.  


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