Tag Archives: globalisation

Let’s make friends with the robots

I wrote this post for Life | Art | Us on 17 May 2011. Click on the link at the bottom to read the full post.


In his session Where the robots work, James Bridle led a provocative and inspiring talk about the role of robots in today’s society, and why he thinks we should make friends with them – sooner rather than later.

The proposition at the heart of James’ talk was the idea that for centuries we’ve built our cities and towns around our needs, but as technologies have advanced, the design of the world around us has started to shift towards the needs of our inventions, such as automobiles, electricity, networks, data and robots. The question is, have we managed to keep people at the centre of our decision-making? And do we really understand the implications of setting robots to work, behind closed doors.

Robots race camels

In 2005 the starting gun was fired for robotic jockeys in Qatar, as they set off on their very first camel race. Controlled by jockey operators from the sidelines, this premier fleet of robotic jockeys were instructed to pull reins to change direction and whip their camels to go faster and win!

Robot jockey racing in Quatar

Robot jockey racing in Quatar

Although this may sound and look quite ridiculous, the use of robots as camel jockeys represents an astonishing development in technology and human rights. The owners of racing camels in many regions of the Middle East have traditionally used children as jockeys because of their light weight; sometimes children as young as four years old. Faced with heightening pressure from human rights groups, Qatar outlawed the practice of child jockeys and looked to technology to keep their popular camel racing culture alive. The robotics firm K-Team in Switzerland came up with this ground-breaking solution and a new robot was born. Robot jockeys weigh-in at 57 pounds (26 kilograms) and cost about U.S. $5,500 each.

Interestingly, since Qatar handed their camel racing reigns over to robotic jockeys, both the United Arab Emirates and Oman have followed suit. So, in the last decade, robots have helped to ensure the future of this entertaining pass-time, and helped to end the exploitation of children involved in this activity. Go robots! Right?

Read this pot in full: Let’s make friends with the robots.


Digital futures at Futuresonic 2009

I wrote this post for InterventTech on 19 May 2009. Click on the link at the bottom to read the full post.


BLOG EXTRACT – Kicked off and driven by Stow Boyd, the Digital futures session at Futuresonic 09 was beautifully optimistic. The session explored new visions for the future based on behaviours and trends emerging from networked culture and raised some tricky questions about the importance of shared vision and collective decision making in successfully shaping the future we want.

Leading on this platform, Stow Boyd introduced the term Edglings to the Futuresonic audience.  Boyd first introduced Edglings on his blog /Message back in 2006 as a metaphor for a new kind of citizen. A citizen that he saw emerging as a result of the web. In Boyds view, this new kind of citizen is defined by a new worldview made possible by the internet and the possibility of extended interaction between many. Edglings hold a ‘glocalised’ perspective on the world (simultaneously local and global rather than national) and are attracted online because it provides a more egalatarian view of the world, the possibility to produce, consume and take part. On top of this networked communication online also provides a sense of personal empowerment that other publishing mediums cannot on the same scale, it enables people to talk about what matters to them, connect up with others and potentially ‘make a difference’ in some way. In terms of impact Boyd described Edglings as a movement underpinned by a common set of values. These values Boyd expressed, will help drive us toward a web culture that offers broader hope for humanity and the possibility of a survivable future. Wowser.

Read this post in full | Digital futures at Futuresonic.

A Beacon lights up ‘Friends of the Divided Mind’

I wrote this post for InterventTech on 22 March 2009. Click on the link at the bottom to read the full post.


BLOG EXTRACT – Friends of the Divided Mind was the title of this years Post Graduate exhibition from the Royal College of Art curating programme.

Like many of these platforms, the maturity of exhibitions produced by students varied. I personally felt that curators had been given a little too much license to ‘indulge in intellectualism,’ when coming up with their ‘concepts,’ this year. For me, curator ego was definitely the dish of the day. Having said that (and to be fair to those involved), if you can’t indulge in some ego driven intellectualism within the freedom of an MA programme, then when can you. So I hold no grudge.

Beacon by Thomson & Craighead


For me, the particular highlight of this collection of RCA exhibitions was the inclusion of Beacon by Thomson & Craighead in The Office of Real Time Activity. Taking the form of a mechanical railway flap sign [tick-flip-tick-flip], Beacon offers a minute by minute snapshot of live web searches as they are made around the world. Sourcing data directly from dogpile.com (the worlds favourite search engine aggregator), Beacon randomly presents one search query from the fifty it collects each minute via the signs display.

Read this post in full |  A Beacon lights up ‘Friends of the Divided Mind’.