Hinterland

Cities can’t exist without a hinterland – the ‘land behind’ and around them that supports the city, provides people, resources, a place for the products of the city – for good and bad – to flow out to, a place for the city to grow into.

Ideas need a hinterland too – a wider landscape they emerge from, draw on, connect to. The healthier, wider, more varied the hinterland, the more connections the idea has to wider realities, the richer, more robust, more joyful and life giving the idea.

People, organisations and companies need hinterlands too – the ‘wrapper’ of other humans and groups and the spaces we live in. Often, this hinterland – these people and places – are really the main point.

So each day we have a choice: are we bringing life to our hinterland, enriching the soil we grow from, or are we growing rich by exploiting it?

After the transaction

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

Ask yourself these questions about the transaction – the one you put so much groundwork into, pushed so hard to achieve, until finally, it happened.

Ask yourself:

Who are you? – have you changed?

Who are you with? – do you like the company you’re keeping?

Who – if anyone – won?

Who lost?

Was it worth it? – what did you give up to get here?

What happens next? – where will more transactions like this take you?

World without ends

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Yesterday I posted about beginning with the end in mind.

Today’s question is: what if we never get to the end?

Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on the game you’re playing, and how you choose to play it.

I’ve been re-reading parts of James Carse‘s Finite and Infinite Games – if you haven’t come across it, it’s fascinating, liberating and confusing by turns, and highly enjoyable.

Carse – I’ll call him James from now on to avoid sounding po-faced – distinguishes between ‘Finite games’,  which are played for the purpose of winning, and ‘infinite games’, which are played for the purpose of continuing the play.

So in a finite game like chess, the purpose of the game – the reason we play, or often play, is to win. We play the game to endthe game on our terms: ‘all finite play is play against itself’.

Losing when you win

Have you ever played a game to win – and won – and yet ended up feeling like everyone lost? You won but you felt mean (definition two, adjective, senses 1, 2 and 3). You pissed off your friends. You proved yourself as a winner and won the small game – great job – but lost at something bigger.

You won the finite game but played the infinite one – friendship, life – badly. 

James isn’t against finite games – I think his point is that we need to remember what they are. And his bigger point is that we can see most of the things we do as games we play, and we’re playing many of them wrong. Schooling. Business. Relationships. Career building. Even friendship. We so often play them to win, or to be ranked, and in doing so miss the larger game.

Our ends are often too small.

  • What if the real point of doing what you do is so that the game can continue?
  • Are you playing a game that is worth continuing?
  • How do your priorities change if instead of saying ‘I started at thistime, and I’ll win when I get here’, you view your project, organisation, business as being part of a game that started long before you appeared on the scene, and will continue long after you’re gone?
  • What does your work, your life bring to this bigger game?
  • Are you bringing more people into the play, or pushing them out?
  • Are you creating possibilities, or shutting them down?
  • What happens when you leave?

The end in mind

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Steven R. Covey’s first habit of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind.

Where do you want to go?

What do you want to build?

It’s another way of asking: what’s your vision?

We can’t escape surprises, the contingent, serendipity, and we shouldn’t want to.

But thinking about ends is important.

As Covey says, it doesn’t matter how fast or well you climb the ladder if it’s leaning against the wrong wall.

If you’re not building something, you’ll probably end up with nothing.

Education for the future: foundations (4)

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The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with a hat-tip to the writers of The Second Machine Age

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with a hat-tip to the writers of The Second Machine Age

Teacher – how are your ethics?

I heard someone talking about driverless cars explain that the technical side of things was becoming almost inevitable. In a sense, solving the problem of how to get cars to drive themselves is on its way to being easy.

The hard part is helping the car to decide who to hit if it has an accident.

In an accident a human might have to choose: hit a bus or swerve to hit a car; hit a family on the pavement or a child crossing the road.

These are usually reflex decisions – there may be rights and wrongs but fear clouds judgement and the mistakes people make are inevitable – and ultimately forgivable.

But a car driven by a computer? They might be sent out of control by an accident, but still have billions of computational cycles to make their decision in the seconds before impact. So we can imagine that a driverless car faced with the situation described above could have time to see its options clearly and have time to evaluate them and make a meaningful choice.

What do we teach it to choose? The machine forces us to think harder about our moral choices, as things that weren’t real choices before become so.

And the same is true in education: as things happen faster, as the augmentations (more on augmentation later) expand our power and widen our reach, we ask with greater intensity: who are we empowering? How will they decide to use their power?

When John Acton said “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he was wrong, of course. We can’t hold that view and be in love the idea of empowerment at the same time.

Power doesn’t corrupt, per se, but it is an amplifier. Tools, technologies are amplifiers, multiplying the potential of what’s already there. The more powers we have, the more important the moral foundations of our humanity become.

Crikey, it’s Captain America all over again.

Narrow channels and deep

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We were at the beach today, trying to catch waves in a pool we’d made.

You can move a lot of sand trying to get the water to come – dig a big, wide channel – and never get a drop if it doesn’t go far enough towards the water, and each part isn’t deeper than the part before.

Build a small channel instead, a narrow channel, and deep, to where the water is. When the wave comes, the sea will do the work for you.

It’ll cut you a Grand Canyon.

Education for the future: foundations (3)

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

Look at the nearest child. How will they know what’s important when there’s no-one around to make decisions for them?

What will they live for?

What will they work and fight for?

Which prices will they think are worth paying, and which should never be paid?

Before basic skills, these moral underpinnings are the foundations of education. There’s a place for teaching values and ethics – also known as morals – but the best way to learn them is to see and experience them.

Education for the future: foundations (2)

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

Education is empowering in a very literal sense, and most of the powers that we gain through it are easily weaponised.

Driverlesscroc– Education for the future: foundations (1)

“Who are we empowering?”

This is a fundamental question that we often overlook – and incidentally I think it underlies many of our fears about artificial intelligences.

We often ask: What are we building? Can we trust the machines?

It’s rarer to ask: Who are we augmenting? Can we trust our children?

We spend a great deal of time focusing on technical aspects of education. We concentrate on the raw materials and tools – information, ideas, knowledge and ways of understanding, skills – and neglect the more difficult conversation about deeper ethical or moral foundations.

As we augment our children (and our peers, and ourselves) with new and more powerful tools, we need to pay attention to how we’re shaping them as people – the people who will use those tools to change the world around them.

Education for the future: foundations (1)

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

So the question becomes, how do we prepare our kids for a future that’s becoming less and less knowable as change accelerates?

And I think the answer is the same as it always has been. The best – the only – way to prepare our kids for any future is by showing them love, and a vision of a flourishing life, and by equipping them with the best tools we have to achieve it, and with the wisdom to use those tools well.

Stuart Patience – DriverlessCrocodile

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The higher you build, the more important foundations become.
Education is the process by which we equip people – including ourselves – with the values, attributes and tools they need to navigate and shape the world.

I use ‘tools’ here in the broadest sense, to include ideas, ways of understanding, and specific skills. Tools make it easier to do particular things, and word is more or less interchangeable with ‘technology’ as explained so well by Kevin Kelly.

To put it another way, tools make us more powerful.

Education is empowering in a very literal sense, and most of the powers that we gain through it are easily weaponised.

Fruit now

This post was lost in the Crocapocalypse – I’m reposting it with its original date.

I had a reminder from a friend that our ‘long now’ still includes right now.

We plant seeds, we grow to fruitfulness – and we enjoy the fruit that’s here for us now.

We often struggle to do one or the other, and you’re not flourishing if you’re not enjoying fruit in the moment.

William Carlos Williams is just about the best on this:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox



and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast



Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold


William Carlos Williams