Fast fiction in the sluggish innovation world

May 31, 2021 § Leave a comment

A note: In case you have not read my novel Perceptions of the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon but intend to do it, then I suggest you read this after it. If you have no plans whatsoever to read it, then this might inspire you to do it – or not.

Returning from Stanford in 2011, having worked with the Peace Innovation Lab (PIL) there, I was full of enthusiasm and ideas on how to best apply and develop modern communication technology tools for the good of mankind, whatever its scale. Already during the fast rise of Facebook it was clear that practically nobody was seriously interested in building tools that would help generate and reward good behaviours in the net. Click-rewards were on their way. There were no standard ways and procedures to measure positive behaviors, either. Popular measures of peace, for example,  used the (inverse) number of killings, investment in arms and conflicts as a masure of peace. This remained a continuous topic in the discussions with Mark Nelson, the co-leader of PIL. 

The mystery of positive behaviours

In 2010 the flood of fake news and aggressive behaviours was one barely visible and especially in Silicon Valley there were strong movements supporting completely free and open network behaviors, some dreaming of full honesty and net-transparency of any possible human behaviors. Often during such discussion I found myself on the other side of the fence: my own research and experiences in virtual collaboration and interaction in real environments, had convinced me on the need to innovate and design new and future organisational forms that would work with he present and coming communication technologies. Such structures are needed for the for control and guidance of human and organisational behaviours which are supported by and occur within the net. Such structures did not exist then and they are practically nonexistent today. Even during the pandemia, traditional and classic organizational structures guide our behaviors and firms struggle with all possible side-effects occurring there. Many seem to think that “self-organizing” is the new paradigm, but it is actually means nothing – without explicit supporting structures.

One of the key topics we repeatedly discussed at Stanford was how to measure positive behaviours and how, in general, it would be possible to make behaviour digitally present, better than it was possible then.  Then arriving home I had time to immerse in the challenge and finally in 2012 I wrote a blog on the Internet of behaviors (IoB) – I used the shorthand “IB” instead of “IoB” first, since I did not want to associate it with IoT but I soon realised that indeed the association is a valid and very useful one to make the IoB concept understandable.

Finding an eager audience?

I gave a few talks in Finland where I shortly mentioned the IoB and noticed the typical reception: the old guy, even a psychologist (I was 65 then and 73 now) talks about a strange concept, and explains obscure uses of technology, impossible to understand what it is about. “Behaviours? We already have everything in the net and then there is the AI which soon will know everything about us humans.”

Then I participated in a foresight project on Dynamic Value Networks (at Aalto University), led by Professor Timo Nyberg and his amazing team where I met Hannu Tuomisaari, a clever and visionary engineer. With Hannu we started tuning the IoB concept and ended up in a very large-scale architectural vision about the IoB and a flow of new situationally intelligent application ideas and concepts. We met network operators in Finland, even some international ones: no interest, none whatsoever.

Then we prepared an extensive application where the massive architectural potential of the IoB was described and sent it to Tekes (now Business Finland), which has the task to support, promote and invest in significant business-technological innovations in Finland. It maintains charming and inviting pages offering a spectrum of opportunities. Being open-minded they recently even funded a person in the business of twerking.

We were not kicked out immediately, but already on the second round it became clear we had no chance: “Very difficult to see what this IoB could be used for, what is it actually?” etc were the specialists’ comments. No funding, no guidance either. I was frustrated but continued developing the concept and then I was asked by Manu Rautakoura, a long-time friend, to join a potential start-up where a new holistic communication platform was being developed.  Muzaffer Topdagi, an amazing ict guru was building the system. I was able to convince Muzaffer that the IoB approach – I  called it situational intelligence via IoB – could make a major change in the way future communication services finds people, firms, and institutions at the right time and with nearly 100% hit and relevance rate. This is the core idea of IoB when used in communication.

Slush is a famous Finnish start-up scene were VC:s, startups and other innovator minded people and firms meet. It has huge publicity in Finland and elsewhere; VCs fly from Silicon Valley there to look for potential candidates for investments.  We were full of optimism, when in 2018 we signed in, with great expectations since we knew that we were clearly ‘deviant forerunners’, perhaps a decade ahead of dominant paradigms. This is how we saw it then and I know it now, observing the relevant, global ict service and app scene. We were busy meeting a dozen of investors – who we thought could see value in investing in the IoB. Again,  there was no interest and many saw it too risky or without any productive future. Often we felt like total idiots, when someone told us that 50k€, for example, would be too much to put into the IoB. Only one of the VCs we met, said directly that she saw potential in the IoB. No investments.

The experiences were frustrating and slowly I got tired of the money hunt but still continued to develop and cherish the concept when I met with Dr Timo Salmisaari, an amazing visionary on health care service-architectures. We could see the huge potential and human value in the IoB in this context, where it has practically no limits where acute human service is needed and offered. Our collaboration is still pending. Meetings with Timo revitalised me and confirmed my trust in the great potential of the IoB. Nobody on the market has, however done anything like what the IoB can be. In my earlier book On the Edge of Human technology – An Essay and in my forthcoming book on the IoB, I have described some of it. It should be finished by August.

Fast fiction (science)

In 2016 I had started to write my novel Perceptions of the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and my writing got a good boost when I figured out some major events in the story. However, I had to take a dramatic break in the summer of 2017 when I suffered a carotid stroke with a mild paralysis in my left hand, and had a serious surgical operation but recovered well. During the recovery and still having all the frustrating experiences about the IoB funding on my mind, I got the idea to leave a fictional trace of the IoB in the novel when no real players in the innovation scene were reluctant to do that.

IoB in fictional action

I figured out a way for the protagonists Johan Ek, a young theoretical physicist, to survive his depressive and frightening career problems. I imagined an underground society which called itself as the Internet of Science Behaviour, whose members worked in close, net-based contact and collaboration and shared their science behavior data  – from planning to lab work, everything what they did in science  – in real time. This made their work fast, always up-to date, emergent and they could always know what goes on in specific fields, and to get help fro their communities. They even organised best possible education world-wide for kids interested in  science. 

My book was accepted for publication by Pegasus (Cambrdge/UK) in the summer 2020 and the official publishing data was 27th May, 2021. IoBs science version is now permanently recorded in the world of fiction. It remains to be seen how it is received in the world of fiction.

Life ignores institutions. There was a major surprise waiting for me. Finalising the novel I learned that Gartner had seen the value of the IoB. This world famous “Global Research and Advisory Company” is known by everyone in the field of future technologies, research, businesses and innovations. Before my book came out, already in October 2020 they listed IoB as the Nr 1 technology trend of 2021!

Now I’ve enjoyed the title as the father of the IoB or as Julián Torrado, a wonderful and kind journalist put it in Spanish in his story in Medium: ‘El “padre” del Internet of Behavior’.

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