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Inventor, author,
algorithmist and philosopher.

Welcome.

I am a seasoned technologist often hired by corps to create innovation programs (“labs”) that tackle hard problems. I am currently “Chief Sherpa” (inventor) at Veryfine.co, a blockchain start-up and consulting Head of AI/Blockchain at Prosper Inc, P2P-lender (fintech) pioneer. I am also a partner at Interpret Design, a design-thinking agency that focusses on AI.

Mostly I am a contrarian in the traditional sense of the word (i.e. “independent thinker” with little regard for conventions and corporate fads). If that frightens you, then I am not the droid that you are looking for!

I have 25 patents (and climbing) across a wide range of fields, including AI, cryptography and computational aesthetics. I have consulted for many leading brands, such as O2 UK, McLaren, Navteq, Art.com, Prosper, Microsoft, GSMA, Google.

For enquiries related to how to innovate using AI and design, please visit Interpret Design.

You can find out more about me in the right-hand column and/or by reading some of my infrequent blog posts below. Thank you for spending some of your precious Earth minutes on my site.


 

Agile (Everything) is Dead

This blog post title is "inspired" by something "published" in the LinkedIN noise chamber by some guy who's probably "important." It caused a minor spat on a (DevOps) mailing list I mostly lurk around on (as I don't do DevOps). My response (except for what's in {} -...

Ideas are Expensive

There is an oft-used aphorism: "Ideas are cheap." The phrase itself is an idea. And a cheap one because it devalues the merit of ideas without implementation as though ideas only have value once materialized. That is its intended meaning: anyone can have an idea, but...

Neuroaesthetics and Innovation

I have been writing a small book about how to think about thinking about product innovation and design. My fascination with innovation, evolutionary psych and aesthetics has led me down a colorful garden path (=ironic remark). But then we're all leading ourselves down...

My (Product) Idea is the Best Because My Stone-Age Brain Says So

One of my passions is mapping the pre-determined content of the mind, as suggested by evolutionary psychology, to common behaviours seen during innovation projects. I contend that most of our innovation efforts are not struggling with ideas, markets, technologies and...

Blogger Redux

I have been a blogger since the humble "weblog" was invented. There is a trail of my blog posts smeared across the interwebs and web archives (like here and here) depending on where I parked my virtual self at the time. Life has its ups and downs, and so has my...

Lab Makers Need (Hurdlers) Diplomats

If you are contemplating creating an innovation lab within your organization, then I have a small piece of advice that might dramatically improve your chances of success. You should appoint a diplomat. One way, perhaps the only way, of thinking about innovation is...

The Invisible Powers of a Product

All products have invisible powers, or essences. Humans are essentialists, not "actualists." This is one of the most important realizations a product designer can acquire. Consider the following experiment. Participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were...

Why Use Start-up Techniques Inside Your Company?

We advocate the use of start-up methods pioneered in Silicon Valley by venture-backed companies. There's a very simple reason to do with probability. Let us first be clear about which type of innovation a lab is good for. Innovation is often thought of as a single...

The Intrapreneurial Mindset

Behind every start-up is an entrepreneur. Behind every lab, you need an intrapreneur. A lot gets discussed about the qualities and characteristics of an entrepreneur, but we believe that mimicking some of these qualities is an essential ingredient for Launchpad...

I invent things and solve hard problems. I am also an amateur philosopher and artist. I have been lucky enough to pursue a “career” (only had one permanent job) at the frontier of technology. It has given me insights into innovation, or how it actually works (if we really know). As might be expected, this led me deep into the world of cognitive science.

Graduating as an EE in the UK, where I won the IEE Prize, I started my career designing silicon chips for cell phones. A series of significant inventions, patents and accolades qualified me for a US “Extraordinary Ability” visa without sponsor (which is rare). I now live in Silicon Valley, mostly to avail my children of its creativity potential. I also sought counterculture, but not sure I found it yet. The valley is surprisingly conformist, albeit to a special set of rules.

In the early 90s I developed 3D compression techniques for a PhD in augmented reality (for Motorola) but got waylaid by the temptation of solving the canonical wireless interference problem using fuzzy logic AI (and neural nets). It strengthened my interest in algorithms, almost as a kind of philosophical foundationalism.

I wrote the world’s first book about mobile apps, a category that I helped to invent. Later, I became one of a few individual expert members of the Java community that invented the “midlet,” the first mobile app framework.

Before Facebook existed, I attempted to persuade carriers to turn the ubiquitous address book app into an open social platform (using FOAF). They didn’t listen, nor understand.

My first start-up was Europe’s first mobile apps company, 11 years before the iPhone. I invented and built the world’s first mobile portal for Lucent Technologies (97) that featured one of the earliest examples of mobile map-based navigation (eight years before Google). I designed one of the world’s first smartphone interfaces for NTT DoCoMo (98) and became CTO of Asia’s first mobile start-up where I pioneered location-based services.

In another attempt to persuade carriers to think open platforms, I later (2010) created an innovation lab for O2 where I invented an open telephony platform (connFu) using modern Web technologies. We created a Ruby-flavored domain-specific language (DSL) that would allow anyone to build advanced telephony services with just a few lines of code. This idea has since become a convention of the next-gen platform/API economy, like Algorithmia.

At the time, I was advocating that carriers become “connected services” companies rather than “dumb pipes” and I wrote a book to explain the concept, widely read, and ignored, by carrier executives.

I continue to invent and file patents for various clients. Most recently, whilst consulting Chief Scientist at Art.com, I helped to create Klio, an attempt to establish digital décor as a new type of art experience. I believe that the category has the potential to reinvent art and our relationship with it. I filed various patents fundamental to digital art rendering.

Klio re-awakened a latent interest in art and I have since produced several “generative” works that use algorithms to create an aesthetic. These works are available only on Klio. Many of them explore our philosophical relationship with data and AI.

I most often lead “intrapreneurial” projects within existing companies under the rubric of a lab. I pioneered the use of “Silicon Valley” start-up techniques and technologies in larger orgs, such as UK’s O2. However, the bigger challenge is overcoming cognitive illusions, hence why my research interests include mapping common cognitive delusions to innovation failures.

I am told that I am hard to pigeon-hole, but I’m fine with it. I believe in challenging established thought patterns (“fast thinking“) and striving to achieve progress at the speed of thought rather than the rate of decay of dogma.

This attitude informs my “transcendence” philosophy which is the directed political use of technology to transcend biological biases (e.g. misplaced tribalism) that might distract us from certain truths, if they really exist.

Related to transcendence, my research interests include developing models of creative thinking with a view to using machines to “amplify thought.” I call this “augmented cognition.” It is different to AI. If AI is making machines more “human”, I am excited by making humans more machine.

In the realm of education, I favor methods of teaching mathematics that assume the use of computation wherever possible instead of rote-learning of useless facts like sin^2(a) + cos^2(a) = 1. In this regard, I consider the work of  Conrad Wolfram as worthy of attention. Homeschooling (“alt ed”) of our kids greatly informed this insight. When you take education into your own hands, especially for renaissance reasons, many of its forms and agendas become quite puzzling (or not).

I like helping people to improve themselves, which is probably a healthy memetic mutation. I am probably a pessimist, or most likely a depressive realist, but one optimism I do have is that I can learn something from everyone I meet. Perhaps I will learn from you one day. Thank you for spending some of your valuable and irreplaceable Earth minutes visiting my website. I am in your debt.