Notes on Work

In a conversation with Alonso Vera a PhD in Machine Intelligence and Head of Computer – Human interaction at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley we came to the idea that there are 3 layers of work.

1. Ideation
2. Analysis
3. Execution

The philosophical dilemmas and robotic challenges currently being grappled with in the creation of the drone ecosystem all occur in what the experts all ‘the last 50 feet’

Technology, almost by definition annihilates time and space to create percieved efficiencies

If you think about ‘work’ as a song, an orchestral composition, there is a start, a middle and the end.  Whether completed by an individual or a group, without all of it’s necessary components it is not effective work.

My observation is that technology & automation is burning our ‘Work Wick’ from the middle out, rather than from at both ends. My belief is that technology will continue to do so until a far smaller pair of wicks remain.


I believe it’s good for our quality of life to burn this wick but I see the work song as a bell curve and there is a point where we are in danger of under-appreciating the value humans bring to our global community of work.

So where will this leave us?

The value of skills is always changing as our environment and supply and demand curves undulate as they consistently do, but with the rise of smart machines I think the space that the ‘being human’ definition occupies is coming into focus, getting scrutinised, and this I believe is a wonderful thing.

The definition, on one hand getting narrowed down, like when Jane Goodall found out that we aren’t the only tool makers, but on the other hand a growing appreciation for the nuanced skills that make our boutique biological make up and human capacity so special.

It is good to work, and in an ideal world everyone will get to operate from a place of saying ‘What is the work that only I can do?’ rather than settling for ‘What can I do?’ or worse still, never being given the opportunity to contribute express anything in accordance with what they have been designed to do.

In our environment in 2016 I believe the value of humans doing ‘Planned & Canned’ work is down and the value of excellent ideation and physical movement is up.

I hope that through we will help explore this with a wider community and help ensure that this good work is paired with stories that matter, in essence, taking the appropriate risks we are designed for. I wrote about ‘Risk’ Here after speaking at Oxford’s Said business school.

Both of the presently valuable types of human work are brought to life beautifully by these 2 experts, Firstly Ido Portal, a real master of movement who I hope to spend some time with, learning from in his movement camps. 

James Altucher, a great thinker and writer talks about the value of ideas nicely here although, it seems, still thinking very nationalistically about the economic benefits.

In the light of machines doing work we used to do I think more credit and focus should be given to our ability to function in novel ways in the ‘Last 50 Feet’

I see the definition of work being ‘A meaningful and tangible contribution to our global community of environment, animals, machines and humans’. This can be executed through a variety of disciplines in the arts and sciences.

Wikipedia describes 2 common understanding on ‘Work as a noun’

Screenshot 2016-03-06 15.37.24

I think that whilst the second definition is important, as in our worlds full of complexity and specialism we do need to have some chips to trade with or give.  I think the true essence of ‘Work’, captured in definition 1 gets too often squashed and pulled out of focus  by our western, capitalistic mindsets.

As irony would have it, one of the most enjoyable songs to dance to within the blues fusion dancing community I am a part of in the UK and CA is Hozier’s beautiful ‘Work Song’

Music Film for NYFA (end of 4 week program) from Jude Abadi on Vimeo.

Here these dancers demonstrate extremely fine motor control, intuitive sensory perception and rapid musical processing, and the appearance of good emotional engagement, extremely difficult for a machine to replicate this act even if it could beat me at chess. Hozier also shows incredible creative powers to create a song which has inspired thousands of dancers around the world to create ontop of their audio platform. These are great examples of type 3 work : physical execution and type 1 work : creative ideation.

I believe the greatest complement of any art’s value is that it serves as a platform for another to make a creative leap from.

On the plane on the way to Phoenix Arizona, where I am writing to you from now. I listened to Eva Cassidy’s final live at blues alley recording for the first time! IT WAS AMAZING! Other than a couple of songs, the album was completely novel to me

Screenshot 2016-03-06 15.45.58and throughout the album there was space for each of the musicians, including Eva to riff, jam and ad-lib something they felt was fitting as a solo in the symphony.

The only way to make the dancing moment more novel, scarce and as humanly hard as possible to replicate as work, would be to respond to live novel music. If you haven’t listened to Eva’s album  it I highly recommend it with a glass of red wine, comfortable chair and lights turned low.

Our capacity to do ‘Good Work’ depends on our ability to engage with agency in our environment and gain awareness of the systems in operation. Some could call this our ‘intelligence’ however I will save that discussion for another time. 🙂

What is commonly agreed is that we have two part to our general intelligence, crystallised and fluid. (google it for more) The issue for humans is that fluid intelligence tends to deteriorate currently at around 40 years old, so we rely on remembering previously learn skills and memories to function in the second half of life,

Shaie’s longitudinal study below casts some light on this life journey.

FullSizeRender 4When you add the fact that machines are burning the middle of our work wick, our planned work, our crystallised intelligence then it begs the question, ‘How do we prepare the next generation for a work of valuable work?’

It seems all roads lead to hacking fluid intelligence to mitigate the losses

Therefore practises like blues dancing to novel music with novel partners keeps active, all parts of what makes us particularly human.

My bet is that dancing switch to live blues music is the among the most Neurostimulating and plasticising activity we can participate in. Effectively a full body neural fireworks display!

So all that said, here is a moment which I imagine and excites me about our future!

Sharing a dance with someone new, to live music in a tree house, designed by machines and built by humans!

This future excites me! I think the more our ever refined appreciation for human capacity comes into focus more of us will experience flourishing more often!

Any questions, or for further unpacking please let me know on

Cheers Dave

Getting to my edge

I have been on a very personal journey of learning about how intelligence works, what the world believes about intelligence, and the state of machine intelligence. This was my first ‘public’ conversation about it and with the magic of editing the final video looks ok :

But the truth is it was a bit embarrassing. I couldn’t formulate my points, I was struggling to use the appropriate language  and operate on the right level.

I have mixed feelings about this as one hand I feel a bit rubbish as having conversation is one of the only skills I believe I operate at a decent level on, but on the other hand it gives me great reassurance that I am ‘getting to my edge.’ The place where I am testing the new areas I am interested in and inevitably growing considerably in the process.

I like knowing that I am exercising my mind and my core skills to keep moving them forwards. I also think it is good for me to share things like this to balance the editorial control I have on so much of the work I do 🙂

What are your comfortable skills?

What are the areas you are learning about?

How could you make something that would put them to the test and accelerate your learning whilst giving you a dose of humility?

Cheers guys



Sitting with Tim & Tom, musicians and friends, Tom cooks a beautiful meatballs and pasta and we discuss life and I ask for advice on where to go this year with my art.

Last year I got my head down and wrote 40 poems and didnt come up for air until the end of the year when I compiled them into an ep which I released on itunes, youtube, spotify and got translated into 5 other languages.

This year I was looking for some help to decide whether these poems were ‘just a phase’ or whether they are something I should build upon? I asked for their opinions and gulped! :


Tom says, ‘I know you as a performer who deliver words and people listen’

I say ‘I guess I do, whatever it is , I just do ‘the verbals’

Tim points out that verbals could be the words that wraps all of the different things I do

I realize from Tim & Tom that whether talks, speeches, podcasts, interviews or poems, I am all about The Verbals, communicating as clearly as I can, things that matter and I want others to bring those verbals to life with music and visuals

I also love using the Internet and its community to try things, asking them to interpret the message through their tools,  and I really enjoyed people offering to translate my poems in 2015.

So it hits me, I have a plan this year I will try to write more poems but NOT do any visuals or music myself. I will post the audio recording as I write them, asking for people to visualise, remix, refix, record, collaborate and animate their versions.

Then, in the last few weeks of the year I will look to pull together the most special pieces into my second EP. Working title – Verbals

What incredible value trusted friends have, to listen and encourage and pull out of you your talents that are floundering 🙂 in one hour I went from artistically directionless to a complete plan that feels exciting and authentic 🙂 good friends Are irreplaceable

Look out for the Verbals audio on my Soundcloud

Please take a look and if you can add your flavour to the project 🙂

Notes from Iceland.

Northern LightsAn independent country with its own culture, language and pride.

The people I meet are used to struggle and uncertainty, if only due to their battle with the elements as I, myself have nearly had my face torn from my skull at the hand of the fierce wind.

Yet only 330,000 people, that is comparable to Nottingham!!

They export fish and people come for tours to see the magic of their northern lights.

(see more photos from Josh who I met on said tour and nicked his photo for this blog 🙂

They rank 4th on the SPI needing more opportunities in higher education and trade but generally doing flipping well considering they went bankrupt a few years ago!

One of the key things I wanted to learn about whilst I was here was how they formed the process to make this little book!

A proposed constitution which they crowdsourced contributions openly from the public as to get away from their inherited danish constitution. A nice way to engage people in 2010 a couple years after the crash.

This written constitution created by the liberal party was overturned by the supreme court and now there is a right wing party in power who don’t look likely to try and get it approved.

The Constitutional Group :

The Proposal :

Supreme Court Ruling :

Thanks to Irme my Airbnb Host for pointing me in the right direction with the constitution.


Just as Cape Town in its small city shows me about Geni coefficient, racial inequality and historic imerpialism, Costa Rica shows be about biodiversity and kindness and Cuba teaches me about a life without capitalistic forces, I am finding that Iceland is a great teacher for systemic experimentation.

In Roger Boyes ‘Meltdown Iceland’ which I bought from Reykjavik’s University Library he quotes Bjarnson’s estimate that there are just 30 people in Icelands elite who are responsible for the economic crisis. True or not it really feels like you can track cause and effect in this harsh but beautiful place, you can see the power and money flow which helps me learn many a lesson and create many an idea.

If you do come here make sure you eat at The CooCoo’s nest, I have eaten here three times in a row, whilst it is true I may well be bankrupt now due to the prices that are almost as painful as the hand of the wind, I did happen to sit next to Bjork at lunch and just after she left her song came on!

What are the chances?

I’d assert pretty high in a place like Reykjavik 🙂

Thank you Iceland and thank you for reading!

Non-Biological Racism

I am spending most of my time exploring

What is real?

What is one’s ability to engage with what is real?

How does technology fit and change our experience of what is real?

This line of questioning has led me to the areas commonly referred to as

Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence.

I have a problem with the language we are using.

I would go as far to say that the worst of the atrocities committed in our brief human history are broadly attributable to an insatiable desire for control, mixed with an undervaluing of other forms of life and intelligence.

I think we should question the neutrality of words like ‘Virtual’ and ‘Artificial’

To me they sound derogatory and undermining of the potentially very REAL impact on our human existence and experience. In a way it is a form of evolutionary racism.

It is quite possible that the only positive answer to the existential risk that the potential singularity or super intelligence presents, will the way we impart the frameworks for learning our values into the algorithms we are writing. In short, how we think and feel towards the new technologies we are giving birth too whilst we are still pregnant could make all the difference.

Nick Bolstrom Surveyed the Top AI experts globally and the odds are that HLMI (Human Level Machine Intelligence) will happen in our lifetime.  The question of interest was what year do you think we will be 50% likely to achieve HLMI? Screenshot 2015-12-30 14.05.52

Source :

I think it might be prudent to consider terminology that is derived from the matter that constitutes the experience or entity in question.

Rather than Virtual Reality

I Suggest Digital and Analogue Realities 

Rather than Artificial Intelligence

I Suggest Biological & Machine Intelligence 

These can be arranged into a Matrix to appreciate that many of our experiences will involve a mixed experience, much as my ability to get to a bar in San Francisco involves a little of my experience, knowledge and desires to drive on the beautiful 280 rather than the exhausting 101 but then I also rely on Google to help me finesse the harder parts in downtown SF, a combination of intelligences.

These terms will probably prove inadequate in the end but I have attempted to use positive language in an attempt to share my belief that is a good thing for us to think of the incoming digital and machine led future with respect and humility, and no better time to get into the right habits than today 🙂

Man has been used to protecting through exerting control over other people places and species.

it won’t work this time,

We need to evolve, accept that control tactics won’t work, and begin to appreciate the boutique beauty of our biological make up.