Friday, May 18, 2012


This video shows craftspeople creating hand made parts for an iconic brand Leica.

Hand-made products are still thriving in Italian, Swiss, German and Danish workshops and in other countries throughout Europe.

Yes they are in small numbers and they are mostly for wealthy who can afford them.

But my point today is not to open a lengthy discussion about economic crisis, globalization, far-eastern sweatshops or wealth distribution. Plenty of that stuff is widely covered in media.

I would like to talk about something related to being a human.

When you watch the video you will notice something interesting. There is no music. There are sounds of hand making process and background noise of the workshop. There is no rush. There is buzz.

I could almost feel the cool sensation of creating something with your hands. An intimate bond is woven between you, the object you are bringing into life and the fortunate future owner.

Creating hand-made is a happy process under right conditions. It brings calmness, human touch and humanly sensations into air.

I would like to see hand-made arts and craftsmanship survive. There are indications that they may in fact. So long as Europe sticks to its centuries old brand names and keep authenticity they may hold on in niche markets. As a result we may be able to keep some of those beautiful art forms, craftsmanship and human experience for decades to come.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anthropology of Aliens

Anthropologist Kathryn Denning of York University Toronto was interviewed by Wired magazine on the anthropology of searching for aliens. 

Earlier on TED I watched an interesting talk by Tali Sharot titled ”optimism bias”. This was timely as it made me understand Denning’s points better. 

According to Denning we seem to be over optimistic about our expectations from space travel.

It may be tempting to mark Denning's arguments as being too pessimistic whereas they merely reflect unbiased facts about our fallacies and associated risks.

Here are some quotes from the interview that I find insightful:

If people are drawing generalizations about civilizations elsewhere in the universe that don’t even hold here on Earth, then maybe we should throw them out.
When Columbus showed up in the Americas, well, that didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans. And therefore we should similarly be worried about trying to attract the attention of an alien civilization.
NASA renamed the Mars Pathfinder lander the “Carl Sagan Memorial Station.” Any archeologist or anthropologist will tell you that one of the most effective ways of colonizing territory, at least ideologically, is through your dead.
The idea is that longevity – immortality, in fact — the future and our destiny are all up there (Space). And there’s simply no logical reason that should be the case. We have no evidence suggesting we can live anywhere for long periods of time other than on this planet. In fact, the evidence is steadily accumulating that’s it’s going to be really hard to do anything else (refers to blindness and bone loss in prolonged space trips).
Our 20th century western culture includes Christianity and beings populating the Heavens. But anthropologically speaking, SETI also could be seen as being a reaction to the collapse of traditional religion.
Full interview:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Useful vs Inspirational

The term ‘work related’ seems to have lost meaning. There is so much going on nowadays, so much information exchange hands, is it really relevant anymore to play Big Brother on employees pinpointing bits and pieces that are relevant or not relevant to work?

There are mountains of information out there that can be classified as ’grey’ and still be useful or inspirational for everybody be it individuals or the employer.

Today successful organizations strive to be innovative and adaptive above anything else. They need to be one dynamic ’team’ rather than a clogged hierarchy. It is smart economy ruling; they can no longer afford being static inflexible entities. Hence they need more of an ’inspirational’ stuff than ’useful’ stuff.

Inspiration comes with free individuals who collect their mojo not necessarily from strictly work related resources. Creativity requires free ride.

Advances in mobile technology made people more aware of a bigger world and employees are now stimulated by external, dynamic and rich blobs of information as opposed to being isolated in one lone cubicle.

People seem happier and more content when they are allowed to go beyond a shallow job description and not surprisingly they perform better then.

Sure there will be individuals inclined to spend ridiculous amount of time tweeting or checking out other social media threads at work. But there are other metrics to measure their performance. Bad apples are bad apples, sooner or later they get spotted and they either adjust or pay the price. But you cannot always replace a well performing, motivated, happy and inspired team.