Friday morning. Turned up late for a Kevin Warwick lecture, as tradition demands.

Icky demo video, very sensationalist stuff. Kevin talks about broadcasting electrical impulses from himself across the internet.

"Tonight when you're bored, get some very thin wires and try to push them into your nervous system"

25-30 minutes before an epileptic fit, signals in the brain occur which indicate the onset of epilepsy - so fitting sensors to the brain can have a definite medical benefit here.

Talks about cultured neural networks - biological tissue hooked up to simple robots.

Next, Holm Friebe and Philip X from Zentral Intelligenz Agentur on the topic work, its quality and its changing nature.

"Rules of working together professionally and still remaining friends": working in a laid-back manner using digital technology. They've been road-testing these concepts in their own company; this is an interim report. They've distilled them into 7 rules:

How do you integrate individuals with a strong sense of individualisation, who wouldn't fit into a normal business?

(I'm starting to have my "we're special, not like other people" buttons pressed. A bit like people who capitalise the word "creative" and talk about "working spaces for creative people" - imagination fascism)

Their business turns over 200k euros per year - so not exactly a commercial heavyweight, but living costs are low in Berlin.

Their name serves as an entrance filter - people who don't get it won't make good customers for them.

  1. Start with no offices; if you hang around at the same place all the time, you won't be able to stand each other;
  2. No employees, so no-one depends on the company materially;
  3. No fixed costs - they only spend 15 euros on servers a month; this keeps you independent of clients and incorruptible - you can always say no;
  4. No pitches;
  5. No exclusivity;
  6. No working hours;
  7. No bullshit;

All you need is "a good name, a web site and some business cards"

(I would be pleasantly surprised if anyone made a commercially successful business out of this. For instance, I find colocation to be one of the best parts of working with someone - the random sparking of ideas you get by being around someone for the working day is where interesting stuff happens.)

They've broken these rules already - they have offices. "But they're not meant to impress clients".

They've set up a co-working space based on the commercial model of a gym.

Rule 2: engage in client work and self-induced projects with equal committment. Sounds lovely and I would agree this is worthwhile: R&D seems important for technology or design-based businesses (and probably lots of others).

Rule 3: instant gratification, distribute profits immediately after a job is completed. People need to pay their rent (of course) but I'm not sure how that implies this. They keep 10% of profit for the company to accrue some play money for their own projects. They pay bills immediately.

Rule 4: Pluralism of methods: find technical solutions for social problems, use online tools wherever possible. I know some people really grok this, I love physical colocation myself. They wrote their own collaborative editing tools and voting mechanisms.

Rule 5: Fixed ideas. e.g. turning everything bad and annoying about Powerpoint into an on-stage format. They pulled 20 presentations off the net and got folks to get up and improvise presentations. Another project: direct feedback for poetry slam, letting callers leave feedback. The poets were wired up to a current and administered electric shocks when they received negative feedback.

Rule 6: Responsibilities without hierarchies. Each project has 1 person in charge, but it can be anybody. People play different roles within different projects. At the beginning of the year they have a retreat in the countryside, plan out upcoming projects and the year.

Rule 7: The Power of Procrastination. Don't try to be too efficient. Good ideas will adapt and catch on, even if you neglect them for a while.

Rule 7.5: No PR, if you do interesting stuff the press will come to you.

Next, Mieke Gerritzen on different views on natural and visual culture:

Mobile network masts are being disguised as trees, despite the additional cost of doing so. In Dubai they've just built islands in the shape of a world map. The Netherlands keeps a country that's below sea level dry.

Nature becomes culture: every square metre of ground in the Netherlands is man-made ("God created the world, except for the Netherlands: the Dutch did that").

We have designer hypoallergenic cats on the market. Next year we can expect transgenic cats which will remain kitten-sized for their whole life.

Shows logo drawn on the wing of a butterfly.

We have a shortage of human organ donors. Shows artists impression of an organ printer.

The featherless chicken has been created in Tel Aviv. It's a more convenient and energy-efficient chicken to live in warm countries where feathered chickens have trouble and air conditioning is expensive.

Colouring plate for children showing the sheer volume of animals on a contemporary farm.

Edible packaging for apples. To help people get their 2 portions of fruit a day, they're growing bizarre double-apples. As buildings become more inspired by nature, nature is becoming more controlled by man.

Nature becomes culture, culture becomes nature.

Shows video about implants and the increasing use of them in medecine. Fictional story about metal implants growing after insertion - didn't we get this stuff out of our system with Tetsuo The Iron Man? Reasonably disturbing images of people and animals with metal growing out of them - wooooo.

Lots of assertions I don't get, like "science fiction is becoming fact".

"Second life is not sustainable".

"Reality and virtuality are becoming equal".

Photo of unborn child using mobile phone.

I'm reminded of Adam and Joe's "Goiter"...

Shows off skeletons of Disney characters.