My submission to the Haass process

Here’s what I sent in. I’m not afraid of argument or debate. I’m not afraid of polarised opinions and I’m also not afraid of causing offence to those who consider the exercise of their culture to trump the rights of everyone else. I’m also not afraid to admit I may have gotten it wrong.

I am afraid of the status quo.

I’m very concerned about what the last year has brought as I am seeing a rapid brain-drain and loss to the net industry of skilled workers. This is greatly affecting the ability of our local industry to grow and expand our markets. The troubles of the last year have also affected our ability to attract significant FDI into the local industry because, despite our expertise and talent, the message that was received in Japan from a recent Nintendo FDI visit, was “Belfast Mean Riot”. Similar visits from Bohemia Interactive and Square Enix in the last year turned out the same. The opportunity cost of this runs into the tens of millions in FDI alone.

I express our disappointment that our elected leaders continue to attack each other even while they are in a shared coalition government. I note the rising discontentment within the “Other” community who never get invited to the table to talk. More than 50% of Northern Ireland is not “green” or “orange” but no-one consults them because they don’t carry guns under the table.

I would beseech you to give recommendations on these contentious issues that support the rule of law, that give considerations to the population who do not take offence at the actions or words of others in celebration of culture and who truly understand that tolerance is something you seek within yourself and not something you demand of others. If we continue to capitulate to the threat of civil unrest masked as demands for “tolerance”, we can never move forward as a nation.

On Parades and Protests:

I fully support the rule of law and the rights of individuals to peaceful protest. We would consider that once a protest has become violent, that the security forces should move in to disperse or contain the unrest. To do otherwise is seen as appeasement by the “other” side which encourages them to further test the limits of civil society. These parades are defended as “tradition” but tradition in a country that is less than 100 years old is a sham.

My recommendation is that we can do something with the Maze/Long Kesh site in the provision of a parade ground and that parades are located there. It will bring much footfall to the rural area, providing a contained opportunity for tourism and concessions. If people must parade in this country, let it be a net gain and not a net loss for the nation.

The flow of public money to cultural organisations to organise parades and events should predicate on their cross comity involvement. There is an opportunity for either side of the struggle to take the high road and be inclusive. But if they will not take it voluntarily, they must be persuaded.

On Flags, Symbols and Emblems:

A US citizen appreciates the power and respect of a flag. In my time in the US, I witnessed how flags and emblems are to be respected. I do not see that in this country. Our streets are festooned with rags, some of our national flag and some commemorating terror organisations from our dark past. Civil society should treat signs and emblems of the IRA and UVF and other terror organisations as Germany treats the Swastika. These emblems represent our terrible history and serve to open wounds on all sides of the community. People who are not opposed to them still feel intimidated by them.

Flags should be reserved for flagpoles. They should fly during civil celebrations and they should be removed not more than one week after the event has passed. Flags that are not tagged by the erecting organisation should be removed immediately. We cannot legislate on flags on private property but the Council should have a record of every flag erected and have powers (and protection) to remove flags that are placed inappropriately.

Murals should be messages of solidarity and peace, not threats of war. They should not depict skulls, weapons or masked men. Slogans and emblems of intimidation should be banned. Councils should have the responsibility to deal with this and we would look to the Minister for Justice to enforce this.

On Dealing with the Past:

There needs to be a policy of seeking healing rather than justice (or retribution). We cannot forget the sacrifice of many in the defence of peace but some cannot forgive the transgressions of others. Our society must realise that as we pick open wounds, we cannot heal and move on. We have to recognise there were many victims of the Troubles, physically and mentally, but the response to this must be a conscious decision rather than an emotional one. Victim groups that are allied to one side or the other are counter-productive. We also have to accept that a mother killed in a bomb in a town centre is different to a son killed while trying to plant a bomb. We have to realise that we cannot continue to glorify individuals who spent a lifetime propagating horrors. We cannot congratulate terrorists for laying down their arms when they brought us into terrorism in the first place.

That said, the work of the Historical Enquiries Team is important because it highlights the transgressions of the past. Justice is needed if only because members of the security forces colluded to kill civilians. Justice must, however, be blind to the demands of victims and responsible only to the need for society as a whole. Criminals should be punished and shamed.

We are ashamed that there is a need for external intervention in Northern Ireland but we acknowledge that it’s necessary and we hope that there is a result from this.

Work: Interrupted

One of the RSA talks nails it again:

[Audio File]

How can we get people more engaged, more productive, and happier at work? Is technology part of the problem — and could it also be part of the solution?

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture.

This is the way I’ve tried to work over the last five years. It’s meant resisting 1970s micro-managers and 1990s macro-managers to enable myself to be doing stuff most of the time. It means I’m inevitably involved in everything. It also means that it doesn’t feel like work. This isn’t anything magical, it’s just the way people work in this era.

By default, we are open. This is exactly the opposite way of working in the past. That part of the video really resonates with me.

An Inception Experience with the Oculus Rift

This is slightly scary. There are no big bangs or scary monster faces. Just unease, then dread and then realisation.

Okay, this was fun to watch. But imagine if there was a Kinect/Structure Sensor involved. It scans in your environment and re-makes your surroundings into the surroundings of the game. So it’s not someone else’s house or someone else’s sofa, it’s your house, it’s your sofa.

Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

“The uncanny valley has been cleared. Lee Perry-Smith along with HDRLabs, Blotchi and Marmoset Co., have collaborated with Alexander Tomchuk, Yura and Unity Technologies to finally make the leap over the uncanny valley and bring near 1 to 1 3D photo-scanning to life in the Unity 3D engine. “

[Content is a little NSFW because we live in a weird puritanical society that believes that naked humans are more offensive than guns and violence. Use discretion.]

This is a tech demo. Yes, it involves incredibly talented individuals and incredibly sophisticated ideas but this is the sort of standard that we should expect from games, from training videos and, from a certain point of view, from the pseudo-people that we may find greeting us in malls and institutions.

For more stuff, see this link on CinemaBlend

And you can try it out for yourself.

Why 3D #3ddojo

Yesterday we had record numbers at #3D Dojo at the University of Ulster. There were kids designing game objects, real-world objects and expressing their imagination. The future for this is preparing children for a world where they will be interacting equally with virtual objects as real-world objects.

The 3D Printing revolution is literally on the cusp. I predict that 3D printers will be on the Christmas lists of many kids in 2014 and I would be surprised and shocked if Microsoft doesn’t produce a 3D Print Kit for the XBox One, complete with a Kinect-based scanner, a controller-based modelling tool, an asset library and a 3D printer that only works with the XBox, Windows, Surface and Windows Phone. In fact, they should do this because Apple won’t.

Some people wonder what the attraction of 3D printing is – I’ve often joked that it’s because we can never get enough of small pieces of brightly coloured plastic crap but it’s much more than that. It’s beyond the production of tiny toys that would previously have come out of breakfast cereal boxes. It’s further along that, perhaps revolutionising the Kinder Surprise (currently illegal in the US due to a choking hazard – but heck, print your own Surprise!). It’s even further than allowing a few specialist applications such as printing your own camera-mount gromit for your telephoto lens.

But it’s really the transformation of bits, the transfer of information, into atoms, into physical objects. We call it 3D Printing but we could also call it Cyber Manufacture – this is a revolution as big as the printing press. This is infinitely bigger than the desktop publishing revolution.

3D printing isn’t about printing someone else’s plastic crap, it’s about printing plastic crap that is specialised to you. That has your unique signature.

  • You receive a hearing aid that you print the housing for, fitted perfectly for your ear without the cost being borne by the health service.
  • Your dentist is able to 3D print dentures or implants while you’re still under the numbness of an injection reducing the number of visits and shipping of parts.
  • Fitting of prostheses becomes incredibly personalised and you might be able to bring your own designs home for printing and colour-matching. Your false hand can match your evening wear.
  • But remember that we’re not limited to plastic in the future. Why can’t a 3D printer layer in porcelain or bone to match your bone injury.
  • Why not print in cartilage or a bio-inert structure and then layer in epithelial cells. That’s an ear or nose replacement. Or even a non-human prosthesis. Cat ears? A tail?
  • Through research in Stem cells, the limits for personal body parts – organs, blood vessels, skin – becomes unlimited.
  • Why can’t a 3D printer lace circuitry through a piece of plastic crap? Laying the pathways for electronic components. That would result in a lot of really cool Iron Man costumes with blinking lights.
  • We’re not limited to one type of plastic, or one material in the same printer. The limitations are really in size. How big is the printer and will the structure self-support?

Teaching competency and comfort in 3D is one further way that our country can differentiate itself. Folk like Greg Maguire and Greg O’Hanlon (both at the University of Ulster) are doing stuff right now. 3D printing might end up bigger than the Internet, it will certainly be bigger than ship-building.

A café for the rest of us

The ideal café for the rest of us would:

Have something happening every lunchtime (Brown Bag Learning Lunch)

Have tables big enough for two laptops and two cappuccinos.

Sell fresh fruit and wholesome soups (with a reduced reliance on delicious tray bakes)

Would have a massive whiteboard for whatever is on your mind.

Would be like Belfast Open Coffee very day and Le Procope every night.

Would have a glass booth at the back for a phone call.

Would provide power and wifi to cafe subscribers.

Would be open early and open late. Maybe not in that order.

Would be run by an independent barista team who wanted a committed customer base.

Would have a small stage in the corner for the busker of the week (who would also get a share of tips)

Would accept that shabby chic is very last year and wouldn’t be afraid of embracing long desks and benches

Would have standing desks with power and Ethernet sockets.

Could be booked for an event but never a closed event.

I know what they did … in your fucking pocket …

John Gruber wrote about the new iPhone 5S and 5C:

To put that in context, the iPhone 5S beats my 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro by a small measure in the Sunspider benchmark (with the MacBook Pro running the latest Safari 6.1 beta). The iPhone 5S is, in some measures, computationally superior to the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro from just five years ago. In your fucking pocket.

which parallels well with a blog post I wrote in 2007: I know what they did…

People don’t realise what we’ve done’, said Steve Jobs

This year, Apple moved the API to 64-bit. They made it easier and easier to develop for.

And they put NextStep on a phone.

This was huge. This is huge. Hugeness continues.