Waking up in unexpected places

If you’d have sat me down ten years ago and asked me what my ideal job would be, I’d probably have described something that didn’t exist. It would have been a strange mixture of conservation, people, Africa and technology – maybe an extra one or two for luck – all spiced up with a touch of positive change and a dash of stubborn determination. The chances of finding something like that were remote, if not impossible. But there’s a saying: “If you can’t predict the future, invent it”. And, it would seem, I have managed to do just that.

Along the way I’ve probably taken the term ‘multidisciplinary’ to a new level, but what do you do when you can’t decide, well, what to do? If you’re passionate about a number of things it seems unfair to be forced to make a choice, so I didn’t. My revised strap line, which came out of an early meeting at Stanford with my old friend, Erik Sundelof, describes quite perfectly what I now do. And it has all the right ingredients – conservation, people, Africa and technology. I was told many-a-time along the way that I should concentrate on one thing, that my message was unclear, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

Eight months have passed since I arrived at Stanford to take up a Fellowship on the Reuters Digital Vision Program. It has been an incredibly positive experience, and interest in my work is at an all-time high. This has come at a time when interest in the interface between people and technology in developing countries – and mobile in particular – is about to hit a steep upward curve. It might sound odd, but I feel like I’ve suddenly woken up in this strange place.

The place I dreamed of all those years ago…

One thought on “Waking up in unexpected places

  1. Erik Sundelof says:

    I don’t remember which meeting, coffee or beer, but for sure we have had a lot of interesting discussion during your time here.

    I fully agree with you on the importance of interfaces between humans and technology have grown tremendously lately (and, regardless how strange it might sound, in some ways too much). There is a tendency that everyone uses it as a buzzword and really do not fully grasp what it is all about. Doing cool diagrams on a whiteboard doesn’t count, nor does only talking about it…

    For me the more important aspect is that the (technology) society is starting to realize that the any technology introduction is disruptive to the social pattern in whatever shape or form you introduce it. The only think that is that we should always try to foresee parts of the disruptive behavior or make the technology as adaptive as possible for the end user. The importance of this conclusion only becomes more important when talking about introducing technology in the less fortunate societies of this world.

    The people I have met so far who do this the best have all done something in the real world for instance built houses in their spare time, taken care of real animals 24/7 365 days per year, or lived in a developing country. The importance is that they have experienced the reality, not read about it…

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