Hey, I was one of those ‘100 radical speakers’! Or maybe they added an extra slot for me and I was speaker 101. Either way, speaking at FutureFest was a pretty memorable experience.
On both days of the weekend-long festival I spoke about ‘the history of the future of automation’, and both audiences seemed to enjoy themselves. Actually, one of my supervisors put it best when she came over to chat with me after my Saturday talk:
Supervisor: “So how do you think the talk went?”
Me: “Okay, I guess. I forgot to break the seal on my bottle of water before I went on stage so there was a weird pause where I finally had to say to the crowd, ‘Oops, this is an awkward pause.’ And then I think I wore my microphone too high cuz my beard kept rubbing against it which made a weird swishing sound…”
What a strange, circuitous, six-decade trip that must have been! I recently spent some time in the BBC’s archives tracking down the script of a radio programme about the effect of industrial automation on employment – the topic of my research for Nesta – and I was struck by the long journey the script had to go through before it could become a word document on my laptop.
In this age of instant access to information and the [Ctrl + F] search function ([Command + F] for you mac people), it can be easy to forget that tracking down information was not always this easy.
During the summer of 1998 I visited Disneyland, built a zip-line, and got a new bike. It was the best summer of my life. And then I went to work for Nesta. I’ll leave it to my older self to sort out which summer was better, but working for an innovation charity was pretty darn great.
Nesta is an innovation charity with a mission to, as they put it, “help people and organisations bring great ideas to life.” I was stationed in the Futures team with a bunch of ‘futurologists’ working on projects related to education policy, the ethical implications of big data and machine-learning, ‘playable cities’, and innovation in the media.