Note: This is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter in an attempt to both to make it easier to read this via RSS feed and to have this in my own independent archives. You can subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.
This installment features a new membership experiment I’m starting; a book announcement; and shout-outs to mindblowing synthetic media manipulation tools as well as a gorgeous new magazine about a green internet.
Also, Unoffice Hours are still going strong. It’s been one of my favorite times of the week for quite some time now. Lots of great conversations! Click here to easily book a Zoom chat with me every Tuesday.
You’re receiving this because you signed up for this newsletter on tinyletter.com/pbihr or through my company’s website, thewavingcat.com. The Waving Cat is a boutique research and strategic advisory firm; I also co-founded ThingsCon, a non-profit that explores responsible tech. On Twitter, I’m @peterbihr. If you’d like to work with me or bounce ideas, let’s have a chat.
Brief updates from the engine room
I’m starting a new experiment with memberships and undertaking a new writing project. More on that below!
ThingsCon Festival (Dec 7-11) is taking shape. We’ve got lots planned, and it’s going to be an enjoyable, low pressure environment. Check it out!
Lots of writing coming up, much of it with collaborators. More on that once I know when/where we can share it all.
Recently on the blog
I highly recommend checking this out: Synthetic Media: 3 mindblowing services that show that AI has found its way into consumer products If you’re not familiar with Deepl, Synthesia and Descript, or haven’t tried one of them yet, do take the 2-3 minutes to see where we are with consumer-grade AI and media manipulation tools.
Announcing the SPECIAL PROJECTS membership
I’m delighted to announce a new membership program called SPECIAL PROJECTS — another experiment in peer-supported, independent media creation. (Media here being defined pretty broadly.)
Directly from the announcement:
Join the SPECIAL PROJECTS membership to support my writing, newsletter, advocacy, research & explorations. Also, experiments with other formats which might include podcasts, videos, interviews and other shenanigans.
Together with you and your help, I can focus more time on the aspects of my work that matter maybe most: Advocating for responsible technology, exploring the impact of emerging tech, helping others — like policy makers — understand the issues at hand.
I do these things through tons of research and writing, the occasional conference and other formats. I’m trying to be as explicit about my agenda as possible, so you know what you’ll get (in substance, if maybe not in format). Often, these special projects are meaningful in their own right; every now and then, they might be purely for delight and entertainment.
Now, so far so good. But it seemed a little lame to just ask for members to join nilly willy. So I figured this is a good opportunity to also start with a new project right out of the gate.
So keep reading below.
New book project: Responsible Tech — A Pragmatist’s Guide
To kick off SPECIAL PROJECTS I thought it would be good to have something concrete at hand: A project idea, something to dig right in.
So I’m delighted to announce that I’ll write (or attempt to write!) a short guide about responsible tech. The working title is Responsible Tech – A Pragmatist’s Guide.
It’s a roughly book-shaped exploration. I imagine a small booklet, or digital equivalent of a small booklet, a short piece of work with clear boundaries. In it, I’d try to distill in the most accessible way what I’ve learned from the last decade or so of working with designers, developers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, foundations and others and give some guidance as to how to approach responsible tech.
What do I mean by that, you might ask? Well. We’ve been seeing a bona fide surge in talk about responsible tech (or ethical tech; choose your adjective as you see fit). But all too often, these discussions are side tracked into the all-too-abstract by questions of definitions. Also, different groups use vastly different language: Designers, foundations and policy makers each look at different aspects of the issue, act on different stages, using different terminology and tools. Some look at the input side, all the way upstream, others at the outcomes downstream. Even the best meaning actors in that space have a hard time navigating the bigger picture.
So, in this booklet I’d try to distill the advice I’ve gathered over the years of working in this space. In the end, I’d hope that there’s advice in here for those who want to make more responsible tech, like companies and designers and entrepreneurs. There’s also advice in here for those who work with responsible tech in other roles: advocates and activists, foundations and policy makers and researchers.
The drafted table of contents, the structure I have in mind, is still too malleable to share at this stage. But I imagine getting some of the definition issues out of the way, give some concrete advice in terms of approaches and methods, some clarifying language to discuss these things, some analytical lenses to work with. And also lots and lots of sources and references to the research already out there for those who choose to dig deeper.
In the end, this should be extremely accessible: As jargon-free as possible, and short enough for a busy professional to actually read. A classic brief primer. Shared for free online, and maybe for a small fee in alternative formats (like print on demand, or formatted for MOBI or EPUB), released under Creative Commons.
Can I achieve this? No idea! But I’m more than willing to give it a shot. And the SPECIAL PROJECT membership is the best way to support this attempt.
Small bits & pieces
Currently reading: The Uncertainty Mindset, Vaughn Tan. The 99% Invisible City, Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt. Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson
If you’d like to work with me or have a chat to explore collaborations, let’s chat!
Who writes here? Peter Bihr explores how emerging technologies can have a positive social impact. At the core of his work is the mission to align emerging technologies and citizen empowerment. To do this, he works at the intersection of technology, governance, policy and social impact — with foundations, public and private sector. He is the founder of The Waving Cat, a boutique research and strategic advisory firm. He co-founded ThingsCon, a non-profit that explores fair, responsible, and human-centric technologies for IoT and beyond. Peter was a Mozilla Fellow (2018-19) and an Edgeryders Fellow (2019). He tweets at @peterbihr and blogs at thewavingcat.com. Interested in working together? Let’s have a chat.
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