Smart Cities or Wise
Where is moral progress now?
Speech given by Loreena McKennitt
at the Annual Fundraiser for Community Living Stratford
and Area, at the Arden Park Hotel on May 17, 2017.
Thank you very much for that kind introduction.
I’m also very happy to be here with you this evening in
support of Community Living Stratford (and Area) – an
organization that has been doing such valuable work here
for so many people and families since the mid-nineteen
I love singing “Come by the Hills” – a song whose melody
goes far back in the Celtic tradition – the tradition
that has been the great inspiration for my career.
And yet not, knowing if there were
people tonight expecting me to sing rather than speak, I
thought “Come by the Hills” would set a nice tone. By
the end of my speech however, some would be forgiven if
they thought it should be called “Run for the Hills…but
we’ll come to that.
The words of that song create a kind of ideal world –
they celebrate the best of days that any of us may have
– the days when ‘the cares of tomorrow can wait’ as we
embrace the simple joy of being ‘alive in nature’, where
everything is so much in harmony that ‘life is a song’.
For all of us here this evening, we are grateful because
we know that with the help and work of
Living, people who may have been denied experiencing
‘the best of days’ because of a disability can now share
those feelings. The doors of schools and homes that
embrace their individual character and potential have
swung open. Through
Living, they can know the joy of ‘belonging’ in a
community that cares and tries to bring the best for
them – and the best ‘from them’.
For many of us that song also brings back images and
memories of a simpler rural past when life was different
than it is today.
That was a time when joys were, I
think, more often shared within and among a community of
people who knew and cared for each other.
Yes, people worked hard and life was not always kind,
but I think many of us can still remember the stability
that a sense of community gave us and remember sharing
days when nature was in its glory and we might have felt
-- as the lyric goes -- ‘life a song’.
I remember those feelings, growing up in a rural
community, in a Manitoba town where – though life was
never perfect -- we were lifted up by nature, and where
there was a sense of caring for your neighbours and
Our world is different now. And many would claim it is a
better world. It’s a world, we are told, that is
faster-moving, more efficient, more productive. It is a
world where, on the face of it, we seem to
lack-for-nothing, living in such a way that we can drive
to the mall, to school , to work, and where we can get
anything we’d like, made anywhere on the planet, oranges
in January or persimmons in June.
And we know that now --- just by plugging in the latest
in digital equipment – we can be connected from our
kitchens or offices to anywhere in the world.
But I wonder, do all of these
marvels of ‘connection’ – does this arrival of the
so-called “Global Village” -- really mean that we are
still connected to the people next door, to the families
on our streets, or to individuals we might see who do
have disabilities, and who might need our help.
And how often do we stop and think about what we may
The name ‘Community
Living’ reminds us that many do care about their
neighbours. It reminds how lucky we are to have
organizations that care for those among us who need
special care and support and love.
• • • • •
But what of our communities in
general? What about the state of the global community
and how does that impact us at a local level? Are we
living in a way that the people in our communities can
thrive and is sustainable for future generations, and is
integrated into the natural world around us?
Or have we drifted so sorely off the mark of what we as
a species are designed for and in so doing have brought
the planet and everything with it to the brink of
I don’t wish to take too much of your time this evening,
and if I do, I would like to apologise in advance, but I
would like to offer myself as a guide through some of
the challenges I see facing our communities at all
levels and connect you to what some of the researchers
and experts I’ve encountered along the way, are saying
about where we are at and to where we might be going.
WHAT HISTORY, ANTHROPOLOGY
AND ARCHAEOLOGY HAVE TO TEACH US
To begin with this evening, I
thought I would share with you a living example of a
dinosaur exhibit I am hoping to interest The Royal
Ontario Museum. It’s me and my flip phone.
This antiquated piece of
technology has been the source of fascination and the
butt of many jokes over recent years as well as a launch
pad into the discussion of the role of technology in our
lives and in fact history itself.
When I was in high school, I
didn’t really connect with history. But over the years,
as I pursued the history of the Celts which took me all
over Europe and into Asia Minor, focusing on peoples
dating back to 500 BC, I came to realise the vital
importance of history, archaeology and anthropology.
RONALD WRIGHT: ARCHAEOLOGY &
In this way, I think of
archaeologist, Ronald Wright, who is quoted as saying in
A Short History of Progress that “archaeology is
perhaps the best tool we have for looking ahead because
it allows us a deep reading of the direction and
momentum of our course through time: what we are, what
we have come from; and therefore where we are most
In his book, he explores human
development and the various civilisations over time as
one might examine the black boxes of aircraft which have
gone down. He observes that we as a species have had a
propensity to get ourselves into something he coins as
“progress traps” and with wry observation, notes that
each time history repeats itself, “the price goes up.”
In other words, by citing places
like Easter Island, he describes our inability to see
the big picture in the long run, and how we would mess
up each location by denuding the landscape of trees and
compromising its top soil, and that we as a species
either died off or continued to move geographically
onward to a “new world.” However, as he points out, the
last New World is where we are living now and there is
no more ‘New World’ on this planet. This devastation
occurred by our species “sticking to entrenched beliefs
and practices, robbing from the future to pay for the
present, spending the last reserves of natural capital
on a reckless binge of excess wealth and glory” (pg 79)
He suggests we may very well be in
one of those progress traps now and the stakes are as
high as they can get.
This line of optimism was recently
picked up by some other big thinkers such as Stephen
Hawking who believes we have about
100 years to get ourselves off to another planet …or
of course, there is Tesla’s Elon Musk who has confessed
that he finds it depressing that his life may never
encompass a trip to Mars.
In his book
A Short history of Progress, Mr Wright reflects on
how even the meaning of the word “progress” has changed
and I will quote somewhat extensively from this book as
I think it central:
“That despite certain events of
the 20th century, most people in the Western cultural
tradition still believe in the Victorian ideal of
progress, a belief succinctly defined by the historian
Sidney Pollard in 1968 as: “the assumption that a
pattern of change exists in the history of mankind….that
it consists of irreversible changes in one direction
only, and that this direction is toward improvement.”
Ronald Wright goes on to comment,
“The very appearance on earth of creatures who can frame
such a thought suggests that progress is a law of
nature: the mammal is swifter than the reptile, the ape
subtler than the Ox and man the cleverest of all.
“In other words, our technological culture measures
human progress by technology: the club is better than
the fist, the arrow better than the club, the bullet
better than the arrow. We came to this belief for
empirical reasons because it delivered.
Pollard notes that the idea of
material progress is a very recent one, in the past
three hundred years or so- coinciding closely with the
rise of science and industry (and one might also add
fossil fuels) and the corresponding decline of
traditional beliefs. We no longer give much thought to
moral progress- a prime concern of earlier times –except
to assume that it goes hand in hand with the material.”
Finally, he goes on to relate this
to the evolution of weapons, and I quote again: “Ever
since the Chinese invented gunpowder, there has been
progress in the making of bangs: from firecracker to the
cannon, from petard to the highly explosive shell. And
just when high explosives were reaching a state of
perfection, progress found the infinitely bigger bang in
the atom. But when the bang we can make can blow up our
world, we have made rather too much progress.
Several of the scientists who
created the atomic bomb recognized this in the 1940’s,
telling politicians and others that the new weapons had
to be destroyed. Albert Einstein would go on to say.
“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything,
save our modes of thinking” and a few years later,
President Kennedy would say “ if mankind does not put an
end to war, war will put an end to mankind.” Unquote.
For me, this was the first time I
reflected on the rhetorical question, “Just because we
can, should we?“
And I believe it has tremendous
relevance for today.
One need not be an expert in
history or any other field to know and realise, we are
living in difficult times. We can feel it in ourselves,
our families and in our communities. With the pace and
scale of contemporary change, largely brought on since
the poorly planned use of fossil fuels and by the impact
of unfettered technology and consumerism, many of us are
feeling stretched to the brink. We are bewildered as to
who we are, what is going on, or how we got here, much
less what should we do, be or why.
So Who are we and what is important to us ? And how does
that inform where and how we as humans and communities
evolve into the future?
I would imagine that many of us
would say that if our families are happy and thriving,
then we are relatively happy...Or we might attest on our
dying bed, that it wasn’t our car, our house, our
holidays or even our ‘smart’ phones which meant the most
to us. Like myself, many are likely to say that their
family, their friends and community stand as some of the
most valued in their life’s course.
And yet, in the 21st century, we
are severely challenged to define exactly what
friendship, family and community mean.
The next part of my personal
journey would take me to the world of anthropology,
which caused me to question if we might have drifted
quite far from our species’ physiological and
anthropological sweet spot and that are trying to live
far from our physiological, psychological and spiritual
Too, I have wondered if we know more about the needs and
habitat of polar bears and bald eagles, but have far
less respect or appreciation for what we as a species
need and how we fit into the natural world much less
where we might be going.
A couple of years ago I heard a wonderful lecture by
British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, called
Can the Internet buy you friends?
When speaking to a group of youth,
Professor Dunbar, challenges their concept of friends as
defined by Facebook. In his research on primates, he
would discover that the physiological factor which
predetermines a primate group size is their/our
neo-cortex….that the ratio between the neo-cortex –the
site of our highest brain functions– and our ‘group
size’ is what determines the size of group for the best
For dogs, the ideal pack size is
around 50 and for elephants the preferred herds are
larger still. For humans, he discovered the ideal group
size is about 150….The size of an English or Tuscan
village. (Or as I was recently reminded, the size of a
battalion, squadron or ship’s company!) This principle
is now widely accepted as the ‘Dunbar
number’ and Malcolm Gladwell captures this
fascinating fact in his best seller
The Tipping Point.
When I read this, my mind went
immediately back to my formative years in Morden,
Manitoba a small town of approximately 3000 souls.
Along with my parents and both
sets of grandparents, there were aunts and uncles and
close family friends. We shared meals together,
especially including traditional Sunday dinners; we met
at various social gatherings, at variety nights, at
dances or skating. As kids, we had paper routes and the
run of the town, and of course, we were told not to come
home until the street lights had come on. The concept of
a ‘play date’ would have been as foreign as Mars.
The milk man lived with his family
just down the street and many a morning my childhood
slumber would be jostled by the tinkle of the milk
bottles on the step as the streets and town life were
slowly awakening. We would walk to school and back each
day and our parents knew our teachers. Our teachers knew
our parents, and home and school sang from the same song
sheet as it pertained to discipline, attendance, and the
curriculum. The teachers lived in the community, and
we’d see them at the grocery store or at church.
As Robin Dunbar would explain,
this village for the human species would feel
comfortable, secure and accountable amongst people the
inhabitants knew. Everyone had a vested interest in
knowing about each other and helping out, wherever they
could. With fewer financial and technological resources,
there was a strong social cohesion with the neighbours
and the village. The primal urge to ‘look after their
own’ would take over. The proverbial adage ‘It takes a
village to raise a child’ was more or less alive, well
And to be honest, once I moved to
Stratford, and even though the scale of the community
was ten times the size of my home town, there were still
strong vestiges of the sense of village and community
here. This was where I wanted to live and be.
But I have learned that scale is not the only
significant consideration when creating a healthy and
thriving community designed for us as a species.
Accessibility, diversity of land use, housing and
proximity also play important role in urban design and
our ability to feel like we belong.
Award-winning Canadian writer,
Charles Montgomery goes on to look at these issues in
his fascinating book called
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban
Design. In his book he describes extensive research into
the psychological impact created by architecture and
urban design. He points out that at various stages along
the way and more recently in the 1970’s and 80’s, town
and city design in North America would take a turn away
from the village.
The dominance of the car became
prevalent, as we as a species started to experiment with
many different modalities of living. The vast
development and suburb model would take hold. By the
1980’s, gone were the corner stores, the local post
office, and the sidewalks which would lead us to and
from work, school, places of worship and the
environments which facilitated our connectedness.
Car culture would now dominate.
Day-to-day human contact was significantly reduced, as
life became (supposedly) easier and more convenient.
And yet it wasn’t just
architecture or urban design which may have taken a left
turn in the 1980’s. According to clinical psychiatrist
Dr Gordon Neufeld and Dr Gabor Mate, in their ground
breaking book Hang onto your Kids, there was also a
fundamental change in the way that parents related to
Neufeld and Mate argue that in the
context of the clinical terms of attachment and bonding
which children have always had with their parents,
grandparents and extended family, this attachment
started to become unmoored around the end of the second
world war, coinciding with the advent of television.
This early introduction of mass
media, which, along with Leave it to Beaver, would bring
sophisticated marketing for all manner of things
including addictive substances such as cigarettes and
sugar-laced foods. Today, the “Attention Merchants” as
Tim Wu calls them in his recent book on the subject,
have “upped the anti” through “smart” technology and
“click bait.” The business now is all about eyeballs,
and buying and selling big data…. our data.
Concurrent to this time, and as discussed in an
excellent BBC radio series called
“Your Money and your Life", banks made credit cards
freely available and the average family became convinced
that the Jones lived far better than they, and they
started to aspire to and live beyond their means,
leading to both parents working, while children were
often left to fend for themselves with insufficient
family or social support mechanisms.
In a CBC radio Ideas program,
David Suzuki and former CIBC economist Jeff Rubin speak
to the perils of our culture of overconsumption and how
we need to redefine our concept of economy in relation
to the environment. And connected to this, is the field
of “behavior economics” as discussed in an episode of
CBC’s program (Spark)
Now, it was not just the family and the village which
had the children’s attention. Gone were the days when
children tasted the raw edge of boredom and had to use
their own imaginations and creative energies to
entertain themselves. Parents and families, not equipped
with media analysis training, got a sharp taste of the
media invasion and all that came with that and which has
only grown to this day.
Professor Henry Giroux of McMaster University argues
that the very nature of youth, so often spoken of as
‘our future’ is being changed as they are being
“carpet-bombed with consumer culture".
So, in this age of disruptive technologies, which has
equipped us with terms such as ‘digital dementia,’ and
‘nature deficit disorder’ I hear so many parents and
families lament that they don’t know what has hit them
or their children.
Their adolescent children have not acquired vital
person-to-person communications skills and along with
incurring mental health challenges, the nature of their
activities is shrouded in the secrecy of the on-line
world and they find it hard to keep up. The CNN
Being Thirteen follows this in chilling detail.
For girls, it has come primarily
through the instant and perpetual ‘connectedness’
provided by their 24/7 smart phones, often involving
sexting, bullying and suicide.
For boys, it involves seeing their academic performance
fall as their attraction and addiction to X-boxes,
gaming devices grows , offering hours of so-called
‘playtime’ at a screen filled with heavy violent images
and hard porn. The books Boys Adrift and Girls on the
Edge by Dr Leonard Sax and Man Interrupted by Philip
Zimbardo and Nikita Coulombe speak powerfully to this
These parents are puzzled on how
to sort the good from the bad, or on how to understand
cause and effect when it comes to such issues as
self-esteem, mental health, suicide and bullying.
I hear experts across a broad spectrum of professions
who are speaking out with great concern, be they
clinical psychiatrists, pediatricians, optometrists or
medical doctors. They speak of afflictions involving
vision, sleep, Type 2 diabetes, attention deficit
disorder and endocrine system problems which can
determine so much of our human development.
As Dr Arik Sigman speaks to in his 2013 report to the
“this is not a cultural conversation about how children
spend their leisure time” but rather,“...screen time
has become a medical issue.”
Unfortunately, in this age of fake news and a plummeting
of respect for science and research, many of these
experts attest that they are not being heard or given
standing in the community. And that the most significant
and alarming fact, is that many of these devices are not
only disruptive and destructive, but can be highly
Some argue that school boards and
ministries of education have become main proponents of
this high tech approach to education and hence enablers
in the disruption of family life as spoken to in a
recent Toronto Star article called
“How Google took over the classroom”.
This is an interesting development
in light of the that fact Bill Gates quite recently
announced that he did not think children under the age
of 14 should have smart phones….. or Steve Jobs, before
he passed away, famously answered a question from a New
York Times reporter, asking him what did his children
think of the new ipad” by saying they wouldn’t know
because they were banned in the house.
Teachers lament that they are
forced to learn and incorporate the various
technologies into the classroom and into the
curriculum, (often without proper instruction
themselves) only to sometimes abandon them;
or that they can’t compete
with the action figures the children are consuming
Curriculums are now
prioritizing coding over cursive writing and hence a
whole body of history and research is unavailable to
a new generation of graduates who are now unable to
sign their name
or that there is not a
companion curriculum to educate and warn students
and families about the perils of the internet, which
include: pornography, fraud, cyber-hacking and
bullying but is left to the random initiative of the
Small neighbourhood schools, which
were once part of village life, have closed in the name
of efficiencies, only for children to be bussed long
distances, to schools five times that of Robin Dunbar’s
small village and armed with their Smart phones as ways
of now staying ‘connected’ with the parents who used to
walk them to school.
School boards themselves have
become mammoth operations which many parents find
impenetrable and who, one worries, may be listening more
to Google, Microsoft and Apple, instead of focusing on
the growing body of research showing how disruptive and
addictive this technology is.
It was informative that the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s
(OECD) most recent
report on technologies in schools, states that more
technology does not necessarily mean better learning...
and that “even countries which have invested heavily in
information communication technologies, (ICT) have seen
no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA
results for Math, Science and Reading.”
Indeed, an alternative to this
high tech approach to education can be witnessed in
Waldorf/Steiner schools around the world, who have
made the conscious decision to delay the introduction of
any connection technologies until around Grade 8 and who
have gone on to produce graduates who are Nobel
Laureates, a CEO of American Express and a Prime
Minister of Norway and in a twist of irony, gone on to
work in many IT companies.
Just think about what other things
could be done with an average school board’s IT budget!
Which in this region is known to be in the range of 1.5
million dollars a year. Just think about this line item
in our own city , county and provincial budgets.
So, when one pulls back and looks
at this from the anthropological stand point as Drs
Neufeld and Mate are doing, they argue, that for the
first time in human history and since the advent of mass
media and connection technologies, they are witnessing
the complete migration of children’s attachment,
formerly with their parents, now move to their
children’s peers. If that is indeed the case, we now
have children raising children. And parents and
grandparents and people in authority have not standing
in the children’s eyes.
• • • • •
So where do these technologies
come from and who is behind the Silicon Valley’s
kool-aid? After more than 20 years of this digital
experimentation, there are now a growing body of books
and documentaries available to give us a better profile
of the industry which has set so much of our lives and
industries upside down. They include books called Chaos
Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez or Disrupted by Dan
Lyons or Irresistible: the Rise of Addictive Technology
by Adam Atler.
In Ira Basin’s radio documentary
The Valley of the Kings, he pulls back the curtain
on Silicon Valleys’ latest gift to the world, the
‘sharing economy’, and the disarming language of
‘friend, like, connection, community, and do your own
thing, making the world a better place...’
Some would say they are in the
business of co-opting the language of the village, but
delivering nothing but loneliness and alienation.
They have mastered a technological
language of determinism which in any other setting would
sound as if it belongs to a cult, by saying to all in
society, “well this is the way things are going to be in
the future, so get on board now, or be left out!”
Heeled by the sheer force and scale of the adoption of
this technological ideology, individuals, school boards,
parents, companies, organizations and governments have
either surrendered to it or have jumped on this train to
“who knows where,” in the belief it is the next gold
rush and they don’t want to be left behind.
FAKE NEWS & POLITICAL
But Ira Basi asserts that when you
look past these feel-good words, you get a glimpse of
what is really in store – a future where tech wizards,
not governments, make the rules as is heard in the BBC
radio documentary (Default
I am reminded of this when we see
the tight connection between some of our political
leaders and the tech industry as at the recent World
Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland where Oxfam
that the 8 richest men ….are as wealthy as half of
humanity and at least 4 of these men are from the tech
And in photo op of this event, in
amongst the democratically-elected members of our
western nations, are the tech stars from Silicon Valley
such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark
Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
This very theme is picked up in a
very frank opinion piece in this past Monday’s business
section in the Globe & Mail ( May 15, 2017), by
financial journalist Carl Mortished. It is called “The
totalitarian capitalism of tech giants should trump your
fears of populism.”
First, he describes the music
industry’s collapse as a result of unfettered and
unregulated technology as it went from a 20 billion
dollar industry in 1999 to a 7.5 billion dollar industry
in 2014. And where streaming sites such as Google Play,
and Spotify now pay artists such as myself 10 cents per
Newspapers suffered a similar
fate, as ad revenues fell from 66 billion in 2000 to 17
billion thanks to the role of Facebook users, as
re-publishers and disseminators of free news, pirated
news and of course, fake news proliferated.” (also CBC’
radio’s Sunday Edition
What’s Not to Like about Facebook?)
And of course this is not to mention the fate of bricks
and mortar retail and the human connection which came
with that, as we are now invited to order-online and
have it delivered by drones.
Describing a culture of monopoly,
Mr Mortished refers to Pay-Pal founder Peter Thiel, and
his “cultish devotion to Ayn Rand’s weird political
philosophy of individualism and his projects to ….“end
the process of aging”… might be seen as eccentric, if
they didn’t fuel a perverse glorification of
entrepreneurship as the solution to all the world’s
This is the industry which brags about their ‘disruptive
innovations’ or as companies such as Uber like to put
it, their ‘principled confrontation of the law’ and who
invite their relatively few female employees who
envision having families one day, to defer that life
goal into their forties, as the company will, as part of
its benefit package, pay for the freezing of their eggs.
Some days, it feels like we are in
some bad science fiction movie, crossed with Orwell’s
1984 and Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
One also wonders if we are like the frog in the boiling
water ...we won’t know what has happened to us until it
is too late.
Veteran news anchor, Ted Koppel in
his book Lights Out warns communities such as ours of
the vulnerability of our electrical and power
infrastructure to the perils from North Korea, Russia or
rogue operators who seek to bring down the electrical
grid via our computers and everything with it.
And in this ilk of failures, we’ve already witnessed a
wider DOS or denial of service disruption last fall in
the US, facilitated by “smart” technology in homes such
as baby monitors.
And of course, just last weekend
many companies and countries around the world
experienced their first ransomware attack whereby
hackers were able to steal the data of these enterprises
and individuals, only to be returned after a substantial
monetary ransom was paid.
Which leads us to what some feel is the potential
pinnacle of technological catastrophes in the making;
that of artificial intelligence.
Not only does this quickly
developing world involve the spectre of driverless cars
and drones, but most alarmingly that of robots and their
encroaching role in the most intimate and vulnerable
settings of our homes and communities. Particularly that
It is now, not only within the
boundaries of imagination or possibility, it is a
reality playing itself out in certain parts of the world
such as Japan and could come to a community near you and
the very organization this evening is set out to
Some in our society may be offered
real human beings to care for them. Others, it may be
argued are best served by robots. Those without means or
a voice might only have one choice and through the
argument of efficiencies, we know which that is likely
For some, the mere suggestion of
this will come as one of the most startling and
outrageous notions they have heard of or can consider.
And yet, it is the voice of the great scientist Stephen
Hawking, confined to a wheel chair, who is raising one
of the loudest voices of concern on this very subject.
He, along with others who service at the Centre for the
Study of Existential risk in the UK warns that AI is the
most serious existential risk facing our species at this
Not unlike the scientists of the 1940’s developing the
atom bomb who felt the weapons needed to be destroyed,
they are urging a urgent slowdown in this technological
‘star wars’ until we as a society can take stock of all
the moral and ethical issues inherent in this landscape
so that we might plot our paths out together (Centre
for the Study of Existential Risk)
As Ronald Wright would put it, we may very well be in a
progress trap now.
• • • • •
So why is this so relevant
especially in the subject of discussing what a community
is and what it should be?
One reason is that we observe from
research such as that outlined in Nicholas Carr’s book
The Shallows: (What the Internet is Doing to Our
Brains), that the human brain, the very organ which is
needed to navigate through all the challenges of our
time, is not only under attack, but is already in the
process of changing its very physiology.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe
as others do, that there has been great merit in a lot
of our recent technological advances. I use many of
them. I drive a car, I use a computer. It has
accomplished some remarkable things, especially in the
areas of medicine and research. But perhaps it is about
balance and choice…. and we as citizens of this
community and of this planet, demand and deserve a voice
in where this is all going before it is too late.
It may be time we have to choose
between our smart cities or our wise communities.
Connection technologies alone have pushed further and
faster than laws and governments around the world have
been able to keep up with, whether it has to do with
privacy, fraud, pornography, copyright or cyber-security
or tax evasion. And in the absence of public discourse
and informed consent, they have pushed and continue to
push our society and especially our families to the
Unfettered technology has changed our village... our
families and our communities.
In closing, although my summary
conclusions of this journey so far have brought me to
realise that we as a species may have gotten ourselves
into a “bit of a spot,” as the British would say, I do
remain with cautiously optimistic.
This optimism stems from the
number of people and communities I have witnessed around
the globe who are not necessarily only waiting for their
governments to bring the correction from the top down,
but rather are getting on with the job in their own
lives and their own worlds.
In the world of urban design,
there is much to be inspired by in countries in
Scandinavia, or cities like Bogata, Columbia or Frieburg
Germany, where a healthy balance of transportation is
achieved between bicycles, streetcars and pedestrian
walkways, which take precedent over cars, driverless or
otherwise and are universally accessible.
Or through initiatives such as
pocket communities as designed by architect Ross Chapin
and others; or the evolution of sustainable and
palliative care architecture; and the rediscovery and
support for local markets and local food production and
agricultural practices such as permaculture and
In the world of connection
technologies and all that comes with them, the road is
much harder and longer, but like any road to recovery,
it begins with the sentiment Barack Obama made most
famous. “Yes we can”.
This might mean that we must
design our lives with much less connection technology
until we have that grown-up global discussion about if
and where it might take us, or not.. and to be able to
stop and ask ourselves, which one wishes the atomic
scientists could have done, “Just because we can, should
We need to rediscover the sense of community which is
truly inclusive of everyone, and through real life and
And in the course of doing so, we
might re-discover our rightly place in the ecosystem of
this planet and the holiness which comes from that.
Thank you and good evening.
Although there are an increasing
number of articles and profiles on the lesser –known
aspects of connection technologies, I do add a couple
here which I think have some strong significance in the
context of this speech. One was on the CBC radio program
The future of malware and the networked world
Facebook rules for content
Dr Demis Hassabis (AI researcher, neuroscientist,
co-founder and CEO of DeepMind)
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