Thanks and Happy Holidays: That was 2019

This is end-of-year post #12 (all prior ones here).

What happened in 2019?

It was another intense year, but nothing compared to 2018. Just the new reality of having a kid combined with the old reality of two partners working in demanding and interesting jobs: There’s bound to be some friction, and so there is, and everyone in that boat knows how that can feel. That said, we’re lucky and privileged and so there’s really no reason to complain. If the world wasn’t literally burning right now there wouldn’t be any reason to worry.

The theme for 2019

Last year I wrote:

the theme was first and foremost impact. Impact through large partners, through policy work, through investments into research.

This essentially has stayed true for the third year in a row. I spent more time still on policy-related work — in fact I’d say my work has continued a pretty sharp turn upstream towards policy.

The space of emerging tech, responsible tech, and public policy has been maturing a lot, and those are all areas I’ve been working in for a long time. To see these three previously separate circles move closer together into a neat Venn diagram, so to speak, has been amazing. And it’s also given me a point of leverage for putting my expertise and experiencing to work, which I’m grateful for.

Friends & Family

A few close friends got married, some babies were born: In terms of friends and family it’s been a pretty good year. I’m ever grateful for the support of a handful of very close friends who’re there whenever I needed them; thank you, you know who you are.
Now if only there was a little more time to spend with friends and family. Making that extra time goes straight on the priority list for 2020.


For a few years now, I’ve been trying to cut down on travel, specifically on flights. It’s been working so-so: As best as I can figure out from Tripit and my calendar, I’ve gone on 17 trips for a total of 85 days of travel, which is about par for the course. Around 20 cities in 8 countries. It was still 20 flights. However — small victories! — only about 30,000 km total. Which sounds… a lot less? The year before it was more like 90,000 km. Either my accounting is way off, or it was the fact that I didn’t go to the West Coast a few times this year. Either way, I’ll take it.

(Not just 2019)

Speaking & Media

Punditry time! There was a bit of that. The website has lists of talks and media mentions; the top-level stats are: 12 talks & panels (including the occasional chairing/hosting) and 16 media mentions, contributions, or profiles about me. An interesting mix of publications, too, including Fast Company, a WEF publication, CHI, and Tagesspiegel.

What’s been interesting for me is that a lot of my talks and panels were at policy events. So that’s a bit of a new world for me, in a sense.


Been trying to get back to a more healthy routing of regular workouts, with mixed success. Tried my hand at CrossFit, which I’ll revisit eventually but have shelved for now, and Pilates, which seems pretty promising to ease back into it. Otherwise all good. Especially, we’re back to eating healthier after the hectic & chaos that was 2018.


Lots of reading and writing, lots of working at the intersection with the public policy work. I’ve been working with multiple foundations and think tanks on issues surrounding smart cities, AI, governance, tech policy. Some of this happens at the German level, much at the European or global level.

I’ve started my role as an industry supervisor in the OpenDoTT PhD program for responsible tech, and was a fellow at Edgeryders, where my research focused on smart city governance. Also, I went back on the jury for Prototype Fund.

ThingsCon is still going strong, we just had our 6th anniversary. As is my semi-personal newsletter Connection Problem, which I’ve been enjoying writing a lot.

Books read

29 books on my list, including some contemporary sci-fi (Kim Stanley Robinson, Eliot Pepper, Tim Maughan) but also classics like Vernor Vinge. Some fiction, like Ted Chiang’s Exhalations and John Hodgman’s Medallion Status. Some more random stuff like So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid, Lost Japan by Alex Kerr, A Pattern Language, Fewer better things by Glenn Adamson and some Dalai Lama; How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell, essay collections like McSweeny’s The End of Trust and — a bit surprising to me! — I found myself ripping through the full 8 book arch of The Expanse. Overall a quiet enjoyable mix.

Also, still lots of unfinished ones in the “ongoing” folder that might or might not ever be finished.

Firsts & some things I learned along the way

Firsts: Indoor Skydiving. Waterball (Water zorb?). Learned some Ukulele basics. Baked a bread. First time in Valencia. Took a boat to travel for business. Reconciled an old awkwardness. Applied for a job I was genuinely interested in. Looked at 20,000 year old cave paintings. Rode in two autonomous buses.

Learned: Prioritizing a lot more harshly. Identifying opportunities for leverage/impact better (I think).

So what’s next?

2020 will start with wrapping up a number of ongoing projects, and a new collaboration which feels pretty exciting. I look forward to continuing my work at the intersection of responsible tech & public policy, and finding the most effective points of leverage to really make sure my expertise can be meaningfully applied.

I also still would be pretty interested in helping a foundation partner set up an impact investment program at that intersection of emerging tech & public policy. Any leads would be highly welcome!

Otherwise it might be time again to spend a month or two working from abroad, but nothing’s set in stone yet.

Also, I’m always up for discussing interesting new projects. If you’re pondering one, get in touch.

For now, I hope you get to relax and enjoy the holidays.

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