Club of Amsterdam Journal, November 2022, Issue 248

Journals Archive
Journals – Main Topics
The Future Now Shows



Lead Article

How ‘living architecture’ could help the world avoid a soul-deadening digital future
by Tim Gorichanaz, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Article 01

Cooking on Biogas
y Gardenerd

The Future Now Show

Digital Fitness
How we work isn't working. What now?

with Martijn Aslander

Article 02

WorldRiskReport 2022
Focus: Digitalization

News about the Future

> The Green Office Movement
> OrganiCity

Article 03

Synthetic futures: my journey into the emotional, poetic world of AI art making
Mitch Goodwin, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne

Recommended Book

Hacking Digital:
Best Practices to Implement and Accelerate Your Business Transformation

Michael Wade, Didier Bonnet, Tomoko Yokoi, Nikolaus Obwegeser

Article 04

Aletsch Glacier:
View from Eggishorn

by ETH Zurich

Climate Change Success Story

AI & Climate Change

Futurist Portrait

Benjamin Talin
CEO & Founder of MoreThanDigital

Aletsch Glacier, ARCHITECTURE, Artificial Intelligence,
Augmented Imagination, Biogas, Biogas Cooking, City Authorities,
Climate Change, Data, Digital Fitness, Digitalisation, Easycracy,
Food Waste, Innovation, Lifehacking, Office

Club of Amsterdam Search
Submit your article


Felix B Bopp

Website statistics for
January 2021 - October 2022:
Visits: 885,000
Visitors: 190


Benjamin Talin: It all began with the frustration that there was no neutral and easily understandable content for entrepreneurs when it came to the much talked about word “digitisation”. So his goal was to provide as many people as possible with the knowledge of what digitisation is and how they can do it themselves. Benjamin Talin firmly believes that the majority of entrepreneurs who have not yet done anything are simply afraid of doing something because of ignorance, because knowledge is the basic building block for change. From this goal, the platform was created. Originally still with focus on Switzerland, it was then soon widely spread and many readers read the simple contents also from Germany and Austria. So in July was born to provide information in the DACH area, for everyone who needs answers in the digital area.

Michael Wade: I'm often asked 'what is the next big thing in digital?' My answer is not a technology, but the intersection of digital, ethics, and sustainability. To navigate this next big wave we have produced a report in conjunction with the Swiss Digital Initiative.

Lady Gaga: "I know a Renaissance is coming, and the wrath of pop culture will inspire you and the rage of art will empower you."

Lead Article

How ‘living architecture’ could help the world avoid a soul-deadening digital future
by Tim Gorichanaz, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Tim Gorichanaz


Which lesson should the technology field take from architecture: modernist efficiency or 'living structure'? Jamie Street/Unsplash; Peter Morville/Flickr, CC BY-SA
Tim Gorichanaz,
Drexel University

My first Apple laptop felt like a piece of magic made just for me - almost a part of myself. The rounded corners, the lively shading, the delightful animations. I had been using Windows my whole life, starting on my family's IBM 386, and I never thought using a computer could be so fun.

Indeed, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said that computers were like bicycles for the mind, extending your possibilities and helping you do things not only more efficiently but also more beautifully. Some technologies seem to unlock your humanity and make you feel inspired and alive.

But not all technologies are like this. Sometimes devices do not work reliably or as expected. Often you have to change to conform to the limitations of a system, as when you need to speak differently so a digital voice assistant can understand you. And some platforms bring out the worst in people. Think of anonymous flame wars.

As a researcher who studies technology, design and ethics, I believe that a hopeful way forward comes from the world of architecture. It all started decades ago with an architect's observation that newer buildings tended to be lifeless and depressing, even if they were made using ever fancier tools and techniques.

Tech's wear on humanity

The problems with technology are myriad and diffuse, and widely studied and reported: from short attention spans and tech neck to clickbait and AI bias to trolling and shaming to conspiracy theories and misinformation.

As people increasingly live online, these issues may only get worse. Some recent visions of the metaverse, for example, suggest that humans will come to live primarily in virtual spaces. Already, people worldwide spend on average seven hours per day on digital screens - nearly half of waking hours.

While public awareness of these issues is on the rise, it's not clear whether or how tech companies will be able to address them. Is there a way to ensure that future technologies are more like my first Apple laptop and less like a Twitter pile-on?

A man in his 70s with gray hair wearing a blue button-down shirt
Christopher Alexander in 2012. Michaelmehaffy/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Over the past 60 years, the architectural theorist Christopher Alexander pursued questions similar to these in his own field. Alexander, who died in March 2022 at age 85, developed a theory of design that has made inroads in architecture. Translated to the technology field, this theory can provide the principles and process for creating technologies that unlock people's humanity rather than suppress it.

How good design is defined

Technology design is beginning to mature. Tech companies and product managers have realized that a well-designed user interface is essential for a product's success, not just nice to have.

As professions mature, they tend to organize their knowledge into concepts. Design patterns are a great example of this. A design pattern is a reusable solution to a problem that designers need to solve frequently.

In user experience design, for instance, such problems include helping users enter their shipping information or get back to the home page. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time, designers can apply a design pattern: clicking the logo at the upper left always takes you home. With design patterns, life is easier for designers, and the end products are better for users.

Design patterns facilitate good design in one sense: They are efficient and productive. Yet they do not necessarily lead to designs that are good for people. They can be sterile and generic. How, exactly, to avoid that is a major challenge.

A seed of hope lies in the very place where design patterns originated: the work of Christopher Alexander. Alexander dedicated his life to understanding what makes an environment good for humans - good in a deep, moral sense - and how designers might create structures that are likewise good.

Christopher Alexander discussing place, repetition and adaptation.

His work on design patterns, dating back to the 1960s, was his initial effort at an answer. The patterns he developed with his colleagues included details like how many stories a good building should have and how many light sources a good room should have.

But Alexander found design patterns ultimately unsatisfying. He took that work further, eventually publishing his theory in his four-volume magnum opus, "The Nature of Order."

While Alexander's work on design patterns is very well known - his 1977 book "A Pattern Language" remains a bestseller - his later work, which he deemed much more important, has been largely overlooked. No surprise, then, that his deepest insights have not yet entered technology design. But if they do, good design could come to mean something much richer.

On creating structures that foster life

Architecture was getting worse, not better. That was Christopher Alexander's conclusion in the mid-20th century.

Much modern architecture is inert and makes people feel dead inside. It may be sleek and intellectual - it may even win awards - but it does not help generate a feeling of life within its occupants. What went wrong, and how might architecture correct its course?

Cluster of nearly-featureless city buildings with competing shapes and colors
An example of the kind of postmodern architecture Christopher Alexander criticized. Garry Knight/Flickr, CC BY

Motivated by this question, Alexander conducted numerous experiments throughout his career, going deeper and deeper. Beginning with his design patterns, he discovered that the designs that stirred up the most feeling in people, what he called living structure, shared certain qualities. This wasn't just a hunch, but a testable empirical theory, one that he validated and refined from the late 1970s until the turn of the century. He identified 15 qualities, each with a technical definition and many examples.

The qualities are:

  • Levels of scale
  • Strong centers
  • Boundaries
  • Alternating repetition
  • Positive space
  • Good shape
  • Local symmetries
  • Deep interlocking and ambiguity
  • Contrast gradients
  • Roughness
  • Echoes
  • The void
  • Simplicity and inner calm
  • Notseparateness

As Alexander writes, living structure is not just pleasant and energizing, though it is also those. Living structure reaches into humans at a transcendent level - connecting people with themselves and with one another - with all humans across centuries and cultures and climates.

A tall Chinese pagoda against a blue sky rises above a row of trees in the foreground
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China. Alexander considered this building a paragon of living structure, with its beautiful scale, inner calm and connectedness to its setting. Alex Kwok/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

Yet modern architecture, as Alexander showed, has very few of the qualities that make living structure. In other words, over the 20th century architects taught one another to do it all wrong. Worse, these errors were crystallized in building codes, zoning laws, awards criteria and education. He decided it was time to turn things around.

Alexander's ideas have been hugely influential in architectural theory and criticism. But the world has not yet seen the paradigm shift he was hoping for.

By the mid-1990s, Alexander recognized that for his aims to be achieved, there would need to be many more people on board - and not just architects, but all sorts of planners, infrastructure developers and everyday people. And perhaps other fields besides architecture. The digital revolution was coming to a head.

a virtual world showing a medley of elements: a statue, warped checker floors, and signs
A scene from the game Second Life, evocative of the widespread metaverse imagery. Is it more like the postmodern scene or the Chinese pagoda? ZZ Bottom/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Alexander's invitation to technology designers

As Alexander doggedly pursued his research, he started to notice the potential for digital technology to be a force for good. More and more, digital technology was becoming part of the human environment - becoming, that is, architectural.

Meanwhile, Alexander's ideas about design patterns had entered the world of technology design as a way to organize and communicate design knowledge. To be sure, this older work of Alexander's proved very valuable, particularly to software engineering.

Because of his fame for design patterns, in 1996 Alexander was invited to give a keynote address at a major software engineering conference sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery.

In his talk, Alexander remarked that the tech industry was making great strides in efficiency and power but perhaps had not paused to ask: "What are we supposed to be doing with all these programs? How are they supposed to help the Earth?"

"For now, you're like guns for hire," Alexander said. He invited the audience to make technologies for good, not just for pay.

Loosening the design process

In "The Nature of Order,"Alexander defined not only his theory of living structure, but also a process for creating such structure.

In short, this process involves democratic participation and springs from the bottom up in an evolving progression incorporating the 15 qualities of living structure. The end result isn't known ahead of time - it's adapted along the way. The term "organic"comes to mind, and this is appropriate, because nature almost invariably creates living structure.

But typical architecture - and design in many fields - is, in contrast, top-down and strictly defined from the outset. In this machinelike process, rigid precision is prioritized over local adaptability, project roles are siloed apart and the emphasis is on commercial value and investment over anything else. This is a recipe for lifeless structure.

tree fern amid other green fern foliage
An example of natural living structure: a tree fern crozier unfurling. brewbooks/flickr, CC BY-SA

Alexander's work suggests that if living structure is the goal, the design process is the place to focus. And the technology field is starting to show inklings of change.

In project management, for example, the traditional waterfall approach followed a rigid, step-by-step schedule defined upfront. The turn of the century saw the emergence of a more dynamic approach, dubbed agile, which allows for more adaptability through frequent check-ins and prioritization, progressing in "sprints"of one to two weeks rather than longer phases.

And in design, the human-centered design paradigm is likewise gaining steam. Human-centered design emphasizes, among other elements, continually testing and refining small changes with respect to design goals.

A design process that promotes life

However, Alexander would say that both these trajectories are missing some of his deeper insights about living structure. They may spark more purchases and increase stock prices, but these approaches will not necessarily create technologies that are good for each person and good for the world.

Yet there are some emerging efforts toward this deeper end. For example, design pioneer Don Norman, who coined the term "user experience," has been developing his ideas on what he calls humanity-centered design. This goes beyond human-centered design to focus on ecosystems, take a long-term view, incorporate human values and involve stakeholder communities along the way.

The vision of humanity-centered design calls for sweeping changes in the technology field. This is precisely the kind of reorientation that Alexander was calling for in his 1996 keynote speech. Just as design patterns suggested in the first place, the technology field doesn't need to reinvent the wheel. Technologists and people of all stripes can build up from the tremendous, careful work that Alexander has left. The Conversation

Tim Gorichanaz, Assistant Teaching Professor of Information Studies, Drexel University




This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


Article 01

Cooking on Biogas
by Gardenerd

How HomeBiogas system is working. Here it is! Christy Wilhelmi of Gardenerd chats with the CEO of HomeBiogas, Oshik Efrati, to ask him questions for you. We chat about how the system has been working, rodent issues, maintenance, converting stoves and more. We also cook eggs on Biogas!


HomeBiogas is a world leader in developing groundbreaking, simple to use biogas systems. We’re enabling people and businesses around the globe to turn their own organic waste into self-made clean energy, on-site. HomeBiogas is serving thousands of households, farmers, businesses, underserved communities, and those seeking a more sustainable way of living with over 10,000 biogas systems in over 100 countries around the world. Our prefabricated, fully off-grid, patent-based systems offer modular options to suit each of our customer‘s needs, empowering them to live a healthier, more efficient, self-resilient and sustainable life. Our vision is to promote sustainability, improve lives, and create a positive impact on the environment by harnessing our expertise in waste treatment and biogas systems.

Our mission is to empower people and businesses to be change agents for the betterment of themselves, society, and the environment, by developing innovative, easy-to-use, practical, useful, and accessible biogas systems.

A Snapshot of our Impact in 2021:

HomeBiogas is contributing to 13 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

HomeBiogas systems are designed for a circular economy while the systems themselves are made out of 100% recyclable materials and the products’ shelf life is 15 years.

124,891 trees were saved: according to the world bank, the UN and FAO reports, between 2.4 and 3.5 million people worldwide do not have access to clean cooking energy and technology. These people use open fires and rely on wood-based fuel, including wood and charcoal for cooking.

70,080,000 liters of water conserved: HomeBiogas’ toilet saves over 80%of water with every flush compared to a regular toilet.

200+ systems installed in schools around the world to educate the future generation on a world without waste and renewable energy.

Yesterday's leftovers are today's energy

Keeping a sustainable lifestyle and creating your renewable energy is a mission, yet it can also be fun and exciting!
From an easy-to-use device experience, and the excitement of watching yesterday’s leftovers turns into today’s meal through the professional cooking sense that makes you the chef in your home kitchen.

HomeBiogas generates up to 600 liters of biogas per day, equivalent to 2 hours of cooking, transforming organic waste into renewable energy. In simple terms – you can make an omelet with yesterday’s potato peels.

Taking sustainable cooking to the next level

Sustainable cooking is all about choices. From the goods, we select in the market to the usage of our kitchen appliances. The way we consume food affects local sustainability, health, and the environment. Over 1.3 Billion tonnes of food goes to landfills every year; we must start re-thinking our relationship with food.

We are sure you know the basics… learning your labels, preferring more plant-based foods, local and seasonally grown, using the whole vegetable from stem to leaf, cooking a whole chicken instead of pieces; you have already taken the first step! But why stop there?

Using renewable clean energy is probably the most obvious example of sustainability. HomeBiogas is a waste-to-energy product that will change your life forever — producing a moderate flame heat that is perfect for delicious dishes and enough energy for a full, well-cooked homemade meal.

Cook like a pro with green-energy flames

Ask 100 chefs what type of kitchen stove they prefer and 96% of them will say gas. Gourmet cooks and chefs would never consider cooking with anything other than live flames. Not only do they state it to be a far better cooking experience, but also because gas ranges heat up much faster, the flames work better with different cookware types, and it’s easier to clean and maintain.

Watch how Momo, a professional chef and sustainability ambassador, using the HomeBiogas system for the first time.


Small Restaurants and Farms

Imagine this: starting today you have an appliance in your farm that does not only take the manure of your farm animals but also turns it into renewable energy and very rich liquid fertilizer for your crops! As simple as that. Up to 6 hours of cooking gas and tens of liters of fertilizer EVERYDAY for FREE


Kibbutz Yagur’s found an answer that’s good for the environment!

Kibbutz Yagur members were surprised some months ago to see a large black container positioned next to their longtime dining hall. It turned out to be part of a system producing energy from food waste. It’s meant to bring about a change from the customary habit of many years: tossing food waste into the garbage bins from which it’s then taken to a landfill.

Inside the dining hall, leftover food is slid into special apertures adjacent to the dishwashing machine. From there, and from the kitchen, food waste goes to a grinding facility. The ground mixture then enters the black device set up by Home Biogas. Inside, waste is broken down by bacteria in the absence of oxygen. The outcome is gas, primarily methane, that can be used to heat water for the dishwasher rather than be emitted into the air. An additional liquid is also produced which is filtered, sterilized, and becomes fertilizer.

Finding solutions for home and commercial organic waste as an alternative to landfills is a mission of vital environmental importance. Accounting for 44% of total urban waste in Israel, organic matter is the primary source of the greenhouse gas, methane, and liquids containing high levels of pollutants. Throwing these materials into the green bins makes it harder to recycle other waste components such as plastic and paper, which organic waste moistens and pollutes. Recent years have seen exerted efforts at training the public to adopt the habit of separating organic waste from other forms and depositing organic materials in the brown bins, enabling these to be transferred to gas and compost producing facilities at an industrial scale.


The HomeBiogas Commercial system is compact waste to energy solution

The device installed in Yagur belongs to a new generation of equipment which can be positioned adjacent to institutions serving a large number of people. This initiative comports with recommendations detailed in the policy paper on handling organic waste, recently published by the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research at the Technion and Haifa University. A primary recommendation appearing in the paper is to encourage localized waste handling rather than centralized, distanced operations.



The Future Now Show

Digital Fitness
How we work isn't working. What now?
with Martijn Aslander

The hope was once that computers would help people to work smarter and more efficiently. And that the advent of the network society, some ten years ago, would increase people's options and thereby empower them. For example, by collaborating effectively together, they could achieve things while sidestepping old and existing management structures. So they would no longer be held back by layers of management, hierarchy or bureaucracy. In addition, knowledge and innovations would circulate much faster within a network society and thus realise its potential. Technology would reduce, or even eliminate, the friction between issues and solutions. And the intermediate links in the value chain (retailers!) could disappear.








The five pillars of Digital Fitness

- Digital awareness: the impact of the network- and information society, where technology plays an important role, is enormous, and brings with it new rules. Digital awareness is about what this requires of us as people and organisations in terms of knowledge levels, attitude and behaviour. And how we should organise things differently where necessary.

- Digital hygiene: in effect an extension of social hygiene. Employees should agree, preferably at team level, what digital tools they should use, when and how. As well as how to clean up their digital clutter, prevent digital scams, best organise backups, handle passwords, etc.

- Digital skills: an estimated 90% of computer users need to brush up on their digital skills. This will save a lot of time and so increase effectiveness. Sparing people a lot of digital stress and freeing up hundreds of hours a year.

- Personal knowledge management: the latest generations of digital tools let employees 'capture' their knowledge much faster and share it more effectively with colleagues. An application like Notion, an online whiteboard like Miro, or note-apps like Evernote and Roam Research are all tools that help you 'liquify' your knowledge.

- Personal growth through technology: most knowledge workers want to continue developing themselves, preferably through lifelong learning. This contributes to and enhances their sustainable employability, and technology can really help here.

Please note: the relative importance of the various pillars varies per knowledge worker, depending on their position, role and responsibilities. So while for a programmer, digital skills will outweigh digital awareness, the opposite is true for their CEO.



Martijn Aslander
Technology Philosopher | International Speaker
Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Dutch language) (Dutch language)

Felix B Bopp
Producer of The Future Now Show

The Future Now Show

You can find The Future Now Show also at

LinkedIn: The Future Now Show Group
YouTube: The Future Now Show Channel


Article 02

WorldRiskReport 2022
Focus: Digitalization


The WorldRiskReport 2022 is published in cooperation with the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict (IFHV) of the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.



Completely revised WorldRiskIndex 2022 shows:
Very high disaster risk for the Americas and Asia, Germany no longer at low risk

Berlin, September 8, 2022 - The global hotspots of disaster risk from natural hazards are in the Americas and Asia. This is shown by the WorldRiskIndex 2022, published today by Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft and the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr University Bochum (IFHV) as part of the WorldRiskReport 2022. The index, which has been published annually since 2011, has been completely revised conceptually and methodologically for the 2022 edition. The WorldRiskIndex calculates disaster risk for 193 countries and thus 99 percent of the world's population; the Philippines, India and Indonesia have the highest risk, followed by Colombia and Mexico. Germany ranks 101 in the global midfield - and is no longer in the lowest of the five risk classes as in the past.

"Floods, heat waves and droughts are increasing seriously, and climate change is also having a massive impact on the assessment of risks. For a country's risk of an extreme natural event turning into a disaster, natural and climate-related exposure forms the first part of the equation. The second part is what is known as the vulnerability of society. This vulnerability is the factor of risk that can be directly influenced," explains Peter Mucke, executive director of Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft and project manager of the WorldRiskReport 2022 with the focus topic "Digitalization". "Thanks to the availability of new data, the new WorldRiskIndex draws a more precise and differentiated risk picture. In this context, digitization provides important foundations for prevention. Digital data and systems expand the range of what is possible for authorities and relief organizations in the event of a disaster."

"The WorldRiskIndex now comprises a total of 100 indicators instead of the previous 27. In particular, the inclusion of indicators on how populations have been affected by disasters and conflicts in the past five years, as well as on refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers in the new index - also against the backdrop of the major global migration movements - results in a significantly more accurate representation of the realities of life in many countries," explains Daniel Weller from IFHV. "In addition, the 'exposure' component has been significantly expanded: while earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and sea-level rise were taken into account in the previous WorldRiskIndex, tsunamis are now added, and a distinction is made between coastal and riverine flooding."

More information
Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft
the IFHV of the Ruhr-University Bochum


News about the Future

> The Green Office Movement
> OrganiCity

The Green Office Movement

involves students, staff and academics working to advance sustainability in and beyond higher education. The Green Office Model, a student-led and staff-supported sustainability platform, is at the core of this movement.

Our vision is that higher education institutions become catalysts for sustainability; our mission is to institutionalise sustainability in higher education. Read more about our vision, accomplishments and development opportunities









is a service for experimentation, which explores how citizens, businesses and city authorities can work together to create digital solutions to urban challenges. What is Experimentation as a Service? OrganiCity facilitates a service for anyone in the city to experiment with data.

The OrganiCity team is made up of innovation and data specialists, academics and city authorities from across London, Aarhus and Santander.





Article 03

Synthetic futures: my journey into the emotional, poetic world of AI art making
by Mitch Goodwin, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne


Mitch Goodwin


MidJourney text prompt: ‘HAL the computer approaching through the foggy morning mist’. Author provided
Mitch Goodwin, The University of Melbourne

Generative art making is flourishing. Algorithms that turn text prompts into images, such as DALL-E and Stable Diffusion, are emerging as viable creative tools. And they’re fuelling much debate about their artistic legitimacy and potential to pinch our jobs.

The sudden leap in fidelity of artificial intelligence (AI) art production has been made possible by advances in deep learning technologies, in particular natural language processing and generative adversarial networks.

In essence, a user can input a text description and the algorithm auto-translates this into a cohesive image.

images generated by MidJourney AI, prompts 'The Singularity emerges fully formed from the mainframe', 'Employees leaving the Lumiere factory, Paris 1890'

MidJourney interface showing the four-panel grid of image results from two separate text prompts. From here the user can choose to either upscale (U) or create further variations (V) from any of the four results.
Mitch Goodwin/MidJourney, Author provided

MidJourney – or MJ as it is known to its passionate users – is perhaps the most seductive technology for its painterly output and poetic interactions. The charm begins from the very first moment, with the command line prompt “/imagine”.

Augmented imagination

MidJourney founder David Holz has said users find their text-to-image interactions to be a “deeply emotional experience” with the potential for it to be therapeutic. He said:

There’s a lot of beautiful stuff happening.

Triptych: Larry David as a warrior princess, a design for a phonograph by Trent Reznor, and a close-up of a rose

L-R: ‘Larry David’ from the Warrior Princess series by Brian Penny (2022-09-03); ‘An intricate schematic of a Victorian phonograph designed by Trent Reznor’ by GM Gleeson, (@NooYawkGurrl, 2022-07-15); ‘A rose is a rose is a rose’ by Mitch Goodwin (2022-07-26).

MidJourney plays with genre and form, using existing principles that have long informed media arts practice, such as non-linearity, repetition and remix, to exploit the archive.

Holz has suggested the algorithm’s purpose is to “augment our imagination”.

My first image requests were whimsical queries, nocturnal flights of fancy, gentle tentative casts into the virtual spirit world.

As it turns out, my melancholic prompts were unnervingly well-suited to the algorithm’s default aesthetic.

Triptych: a discarded surgical mask; a cyborg with glowing red eyes; a mother and a child sitting in a flooded railway carriage watching other commuters.

L-R: ‘Surgical mask discarded on a wet dirty street. In the distance, the radio plays the Beach Boys’ (2022-07-15); from the portrait series ‘Call Centre Cyborgs, 2037 AD’ (2022-07-27); ‘I thought we were all in this thing together … but I was wrong’(2022-07-14)

Magic lurks within the algorithm too. Ilya Sutskever, co-founder and chief scientist at OpenAI, describes the process as “transcendent beauty as a service”.

Artist and theorist Lev Manovich has poetically described his interactions with MidJourney as akin to working with a “memory machine”.

The recognition it is a service but also a metaphysical experience is a new way of thinking about tools of automation.

The technical process can be an imprecise science in which slippages and overlaps are inevitable. As Manovich recognises, MidJourney remixes:

something from real history and popular stereotypes – real knowledge and fantasies. But we should not blame it, because we do exactly the same, all the time.

An illustrated cloud; a snow-filled stage.

From the series, ‘My Favourite Century’ and ‘Stage designs for an unwritten play’
Lev Manovich/MidJourney/Facebook

Collaborative remixing

The MidJourney Bot is hosted on the social platform Discord creating an intoxicating cascade of generative screen works.

It is an inherently communal experience. The image stream also functions as a site of shared creation. If another user’s composition catches your eye, you can co-opt their prompt – or the image itself – and refine it according to your own aesthetic preferences.

This collaborative remixing is what makes the MidJourney Discord channel as much a social experiment as a scientific one.

Joker's mask in rubbish filled alleway, grubby New York skyline; a raging bushfire consumes a blackened forest.

Text prompts: ‘The joker’s grubby mask discarded in an alleyway, Brooklyn, NYC.’ and ‘A new age dawns as the last of the forests are consumed.’
Mitch Goodwin & Kesson/MidJourney, Author provided

My research into the darkening aesthetics of digital media means I am somewhat predisposed to spotting dystopian visions. The MidJourney Discord channel is certainly a seductive rabbit hole for voyeurs of destruction.

Ghastly cyborg futures and post-nuclear wastelands would seem to be de rigueur for the AI prompt engineer. I regularly see prompts citing the retro-futurist nightmares of artists such as HR Giger and Zdzislaw Beksinski and the cinematic tendencies of David Lynch and Andrei Tarkovsky.

As Bowie crooned on the cyber-noir album Outside, itself a chronicle of art world depravity: “there is no hell, like an old hell”.

Users are also finding ways to apply the technology in a moving image context. Notable efforts include a generative fashion demo, morphing amoebas narrated by a synthetic David Attenborough, Fabian Stelzer’s crowdsourced narrative SALT_VERSE and Drew Medina’s mesmerising fractal film Monsters.

The most meaningful assemblage I have come across is Gabriele Dente’s SOLAR (the history of humanity drawn by machines), accompanied by a manifesto highlighting the associated ethical and industrial implications of neural networks.

Digital tools have long been enablers of speed, dexterity and adaptability for designers and artists. Studio professionals in the MJ community are already finding efficiencies in their workflows.

Two pages from a sci-fi comic book; a photographic studio; a hand holding a cold beer can

Comic book layout, ‘Death’s Dream Kingdom’ by Randall Rozzell (2022-07-27); beer label graphic by Bryan Launier (2022-07-26); Photo shoot using a Nine Inch Nails inspired industrial backdrop by Caleb Hoernschemeyer, Flow Productions, photo credit Jared Jasinski (2022-07-27).
Randall Rozzell, Bryan Launier, Jared Jasinski & Caleb Hoernschemeyer/MidJourney/Facebook, Author provided

A startlingly beautiful example of the possibilities for design and concept ideation come from architect and designer Cesare Battelli.

His series “space-kangaroo” is evocative of a mode of conceptual design thinking that blends aesthetics, functionality and fantasy.

Architectural hybrid-design, ‘space-kangaroo’ by Cesare Battelli (2022-08-19)
Cesare Battelli /MidJourney/Facebook

‘Spirit photography’

Eryk Salvaggio has described the technology of the more photo-realistic aspirations of the DALL-E platform as “a kind of spirit photography” conjuring images replete with the ghosts and markings of past technologies: the fading image, the decaying medium and the corrosive chemical reaction.

This ability of reconstituting the past and embellishing the outcome with techniques of capture and display and procedural degradation makes MidJourney especially fertile ground for “authentic” gestures of the fabulous and the fake.

A collage of ghostly faces in a severely degraded photographic images; a film studio showing Apollo 11 on a fake moon surface.

DALL-E variation of an image from a dataset of photographs by Hungarian photographer Costica? Acsinte, by Eryk Salvaggio; The alternate history of the Apollo 11 moon landing, by Mitch Gates (2022-07-21).
Eryk Salvaggio/DALL.E/Mitch Gates/MidJourney

How much this sudden uptick of synthetic media will contribute to the glut of misinformation online however is uncertain. How does the visual historical record accommodate its synthetic mirror?

We should also consider the evolutionary implications for language and computation. With the democratisation of AI assistants, the field of human computer interaction is evolving rapidly as are the inherent entanglements.

And so, tonight as the city sleeps I watch the feed and dream along with the machine. I punch in another text prompt and wait impatiently for my MidJourney Bot to conjure its response. All the while I’m wondering as to the reach of the text into the algorithm’s code, and to what extent it is, bit by bit, re-coding me? The Conversation

Mitch Goodwin
, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.



Recommended Book

Hacking Digital:
Best Practices to Implement and Accelerate Your Business Transformation

by Michael Wade, Didier Bonnet, Tomoko Yokoi, Nikolaus Obwegeser



Practical, proven strategies for transforming your company from a digital dabbler into a full-fledged digital business

Several years ago, digital disruption inspired business leaders to rethink and redesign their business model for the digital age. Next, they shifted toward the organizational and cultural aspects of digital transformation. And there they stalled. In fact, up to 90 percent of companies undergoing some form of digital transformation are failing to meet their original objectives.

Written by a team of global digital transformation thought leaders, Hacking Digital walks you through the implementation phase by providing the practical advice and information you need to ensure overall success. Equipping you to successfully navigate your business through the entire transformation process, the authors organize Hacking Digital into five thematic sections:

  • Creating a solid foundation for digital transformation
  • Dealing with organizational dynamics and culture
  • Meeting the external challenges you'll inevitably face
  • Generating revenue though digital products and services and business model renewal
  • Building the skills and capabilities required to be an effective leader in a digital environment

Sustaining transformation momentum
How do you set up digital governance? How do you create successful digital offerings? How do you manage the relationship between digital transformation and IT? Hacking Digital answers these and all the other questions you need to transform your company and seize the competitive edge for years to come.

Michael Wade is a Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD and holds the Cisco Chair in Digital Business Transformation. He is the Director of the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation.

Didier Bonnet is Professor of Strategy and Digital Transformation. He focuses on digital economics, digital strategy, disruptive innovation, and the process of large-scale digital transformation for global corporations.

Tomoko Yokoi is a researcher and senior business executive with expertise in digital business transformations, women in tech, and digital innovation.

Nikolaus Obwegeser is professor and director of the Institute for Digital Technology Management at the Bern University of Applied Sciences. His research and teaching focuses on digital business transformation and innovation.


Article 04

Aletsch Glacier:
View from Eggishorn

by ETH Zurich




Climate Change Success Story

AI & Climate Change



AI can also be used to bolster efforts across climate research and modeling; climate finance; and education, nudging, and behavior change, such as by powering personalized tools to estimate an individual's carbon footprint or making recommendations for environmentally friendly purchases.

Does AI affect climate change?

AI can be a powerful tool to fight climate change. AI self-driving cars, for instance, may reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2050 by identifying the most efficient routes. Employing AI in agriculture produces higher yields; peanut farmers in India achieved a 30 percent larger harvest by using AI technology.

How AI can be a powerful tool in the fight against climate change?
AI can be employed to help mitigate the climate crisis through the measurement of emissions at both the macro and micro levels, through the reduction of emissions and greenhouse gas (GHG) effects, and through the removal of existing emissions from the atmosphere.

How does AI reduce carbon footprint?
Predictive AI can forecast future carbon emissions based on current data on carbon footprint. By providing detailed insight into every aspect of carbon emission, AI tools and data optimization techniques can improve efficiency in production, transportation, etc. thereby reducing carbon emissions and cutting costs.

How does AI help energy efficiency?
Artificial intelligence monitors, collects information, controls, evaluates and manages energy consumption in buildings and factories. It controls energy usage and reduces it during peak hours, identifies and signals problems, and detects equipment failures before they occur.

Source: Google






Can AI help Climate Change?
IBM Technology

Four ways AI can help tackle climate change | BBC Ideas



How Google's DeepMind is Using AI to Tackle Climate Change



How tech could help the world fight climate change






AI can help us fight climate change. But it has an energy problem, too
HORIZON The EU Research & Innovation Magazine

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology can help us fight climate change – but it also comes at a cost to the planet. To truly benefit from the technology’s climate solutions, we also need a better understanding of AI’s growing carbon footprint, say researchers.

Data centres that store and process algorithms use a lot of energy but there is little discussion about their environmental impact. Image credit - 123net/Wikimedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

AI is changing the way we work, live and solve challenges. It can improve healthcare, protect elephants from poachers, and work out how broadband should be distributed.

But it could be most valuable as a range of applications helping humanity fight our biggest threat - climate change. AI can strengthen climate predictions, enable smarter decision-making for decarbonising industries from building to transport, and work out how to allocate renewable energy.

AI’s relevance as a climate change fighting tool comes at a time when there are increasing ethical concerns linked largely to a data-hungry form of the technology called machine learning, where computer systems analyse patterns in existing data to make predictions and decisions. Machine learning applications have raised concerns about creeping public surveillance, intentional misuse, privacy, transparency and data bias that can lead to discrimination and inequality.

It is part of a wider ethics debate in the EU about how to use AI for the benefit of human beings, the challenges that the technology poses and how best to tackle them.

‘We have to realise that AI is, in fact, a piece of software that we people design,’ said Virginia Dignum, a professor in social and ethical artificial intelligence at Umeå University in Sweden. We must be responsible for how we use AI, she says. ‘(It is) not some kind of magic that comes from outer space and happens to us. No. We make AI happen.’

Perhaps surprisingly, one issue that is only beginning to be discussed is the environmental footprint of AI.



The algorithms that tells us, for example, what to watch on Netflix tonight have an environmental impact, according to Prof. Dignum. ‘AI uses a lot of energy,’ said the computer scientist, who is part of a 52-person expert group advising the European Commission on trustworthy and ‘human-centric’ AI.

The storage, and particularly the processing, of data to train algorithms – the ‘recipes’ computers use to make calculations – in data centres or in the cloud across different centres with rows of machines doing computations consume energy, she says.

For one algorithm to train itself on whether an image shows a cat, for instance, it needs to process millions of cat images. The ecosystem for information and communications technology, of which data centres are a part, are comparable to aviation in terms of fuel emissions.  

‘It’s a use of energy that we don’t really think about,’ said Prof. Dignum. ‘We have data farms, especially in the northern countries of Europe and in Canada, which are huge. Some of those things use as much energy as a small city.’

She draws on a University of Massachusetts, US, study which found that training a large AI model to handle human language can lead to emissions of nearly 300,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent, about five times the emissions of the average car in the US, including its manufacture.

Swedish researcher Anders Andrae has forecast that data centres could account for 10% of total electricity use by 2025.

Although AI has been around for about half a century, the question of environmental impact – and other ethical issues - is only arising now because the techniques developed over decades can now be used in combination with an explosion in data and strong computational power, Prof. Dignum explains. ‘It’s time to start thinking about doing AI in a more environmentally friendly way,’ she said.

AI might be part of the problem, but it also has the potential to help us find solutions for climate change.

Professor Felix Creutzig, who leads a working group called Land Use, Infrastructures and Transport at Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin, Germany, investigates ways to tackle climate change using data science. He is part of a group of international researchers advocating for more collaborative climate change solutions using machine learning.



Vast opportunities

Prof. Creutzig sees vast AI opportunities to ramp up the applications for targeted climate change solutions at the street scale, or even building level, that can be applied in cities. Urban spaces are of particular concern, as they’ll be home to more than two-thirds of the world’s population by 2050 and are incredibly resource-intensive.

‘It’s cool to work with technologies and to invest in low-carbon technologies, but to achieve anything close to the 2 degree or 1.5 degree target (for limiting global warming) we must reduce energy demands drastically and can achieve that by improved spatial configurations,’ he said.

Improving spatial use can help address issues such as urban heat islands, a phenomenon where urban environs built of steel and cement store heat and warm cities. ‘That’s a key problem of our future,’ he said.

Greening cities or using wind channel architecture to create ventilation are ways to help cities deal with extreme heat that can be guided by AI.

Prof. Creutzig is employing a method called stacked architecture, which uses machine learning with traditional mechanical modelling to, for instance, obtain insights into how buildings behave when it comes to temperature or energy demand, to find the best design for low energy use and high quality of life. These can then inform urban planning and policymakers.

Precisely because AI has so much potential, he also thinks its use should be combined with regulation, such as on not storing unnecessary data or constraining its use, so that it is targeted, efficient and doesn’t cause a new problem. However, he says that there’s currently not enough research into machine learning’s environmental impact. ‘There’s a lot to explore,’ he said.

‘Basically it (AI) is a fuel of application … it can lead to a new energy use,’ said Prof. Creutzig. ‘And this would be the opposite of what we want to have. The main example I'm thinking about is smart mobility and autonomous driving because these are really driven by AI or will be modelled by AI.’

For Andrea Renda, head of global governance and digital economy expert at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, Belgium, and also a member of the expert group advising the European Commission, AI needs to be developed and deployed so it can meet society’s needs and protect the environment by saving more energy than it expends.

‘All of these (data-intensive techniques) are extremely dangerous for the environment unless you can use those techniques in a way that, while using a lot more energy, save a lot more energy because they provide for more efficient solutions,’ said Prof. Renda.

Both Prof. Renda and Prof. Dignum agree that basic research into AI forms that are less data hungry than machine learning, such as automated reasoning, should be an EU priority. This would mean less use of personal data and energy consumption.

Prof. Dignum has been working with ‘synthetic data’, which is not based on real examples. It could be used to generate, for example, images of broken bones not based on sensitive patient data in order to train an algorithm on what to spot in an X-ray. This data can then be discarded so that it’s not stored.

Some researchers in the US have also proposed that AI research should include reporting on computational costs of training algorithms to enhance transparency.

To make sure AI is used to help, and not hinder, our society, Prof. Renda says it’s time to merge the two big debates of today. ‘One is on digital technology and the other one is on sustainable development, and in particular the environment. If we use the former to save the latter, I think we will have made the best possible use of the resources that we have,’ he said. ‘Otherwise we're just wasting time.’




Futurist Portrait

Benjamin Talin
CEO & Founder of MoreThanDigital

HELLO I’M Benjamin Talin aka “Ben”

already early I startet questioning the status quo and combining this with my love for technology and computers. With 13 I started my first company by doing what I loved and helping lots of people with my passion. 15 years after my first start-up I can now say that I founded more than a dozend start-ups and venture. Honestly to say also three failed big but these taught me a lot about how companies can succeed and what crucial factors are. Now as an associate professor, as a consultant and serial founder I am still following my passion to disrupt industries, give my knowledge and help others with their change.

Giving everybody access to Digital, Digital Transformation, Innovation and new Technologies

#bethechange – The chance for Entrepreneurs in the Digital Transformation

One of my pure passion projects began mid 2017 when I realized that there is no business relevant source for easy to understand and actionable content around one of the most important topics of our new business world. Digitization, digital Transformation, Innovation, Blockchain, IoT, Design Thinking and many more words are used each and every day but nobody really explained it in a easy way or also in a way so people could start using this technological revolutions.

This led to the creation of MoreThanDigital and the platform to connect knowledge from experts with the real-life businesses to help them prepare for their own future.

Now as the biggest digital initiative in the German speaking countries, there will be a strong focus on helping the businesses and society to be prepared for the changed world of digitalization, Innovation and new technologies. And mid of 2018 I decided to focus my efforts on developing MoreThanDigital, help governments in understanding the implications of this change but also advise organization on how to be more impactful.

With the #bethechange movement we created a movement where companies, organizations, states and also individuals get together to make a difference and to help our society and our business world to prepare for these changes. Each and everyone can be part of #bethechange if they are willing to share their knowledge, to support businesses and to take a leading role in explaining digitization, innovation, digital transformation, new culture, new business models and many more topics for each an everybody.


More Than Digital | Benjamin Talin
with Daniel Jordi

Ben shares how he looks at everything he builds as a collaborative effort and how he involves co-contributors in his projects. He also shares how he makes sure that financial contributors and partners are in alignment with the bigger vision of his ventures and the purpose behind them.






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