The Residents of Wellington

Thanks to Lucy Revill at The Residents of Wellington for doing a really nice article on me.

An enthusiast, investor and business mentor he can often be found coaching startup companies through the Lightning Lab Programmes or mentoring teams of early-stage entrepreneurs at Wellington Start Up Weekend.


Why is Wellington such a great place for startups? It all comes down to scale. “We are not so small we don’t have resources but we are not so large that we fragment into self contained inward looking groups. People really do want to work with each other in Wellington, even with people they don’t like. We all want to make Wellington better. And it helps that you can walk across town in 20 minutes – although it takes you 30-40 because you keep on bumping into people you haven’t seen in a while – it’s great. If I go to the airport and I don’t run into someone I know I feel cheated. It’s like family. That scale is very important and I don’t want to lose it. That’s all.” With Dave on board, I feel confident as a Wellingtonian that Wellington will continue to be a great place to start something up, for years to come.

Two aerial photos

I recently arrived back in Wellington from the Startup Nations Summit in Mexico. On my flight from Auckland to Wellington on 29 November 2015, I passed over the Karori Rip just south of Mana Island.

The Karori Rip

The Karori Rip is an interesting phenomenon, basically a standing wave formed in specific tidal conditions in Cook Strait.  In this case, it was high tide on the Pacific (left) side, and low tide on the Tasman (right) side.  In the photo, you can see the wave roiling.

Then, on the same flight, approaching Wellington Airport from the north, I was welcomed back home by this:

Wellington City

I fall in love with Wellington over and over again. After being in the cities of North America with dubious air quality, she was truly a sight for sore eyes.

My TEDx talk: The four superpowers of the Internet

I gave a talk at the inaugural TEDxWellington this year, called “The four superpowers of the Internet”, which are being direct, open, accessible and free.  These superpowers are all underpinned by the golden rule, that we should treat all others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.  This modern force of good has driven the explosive growth of the Internet, and can turn all of us into leaders and heroes.  It includes an homage to entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs as the heroes of our generation leading the creative destruction that will bring about a better world, a hat-tip to TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong and her Charter for Compassion, as well as a brief history of the Internet and its governance and why humming is an effective tool in bringing about consensus.

Enjoy.  A transcript follows.

Kia ora koutou and warm greetings – I’m Dave Moskovitz.

Six years ago, theologian and former nun Karen Armstrong won the TED prize with her wish for a Charter for Compassion, which calls upon each of us to live the “golden rule”, and treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. I want to start my talk by saying “thank you” to Karen Armstrong and the TED community. The text was crowdsourced by religious leaders worldwide, and it’s been a strong force of religious cohesion here in New Zealand and around the world.

This talk isn’t about Karen Armstrong, but it is about the golden rule, and how it underpins the core values that have driven the explosive growth of the Internet. These core values are: Being direct, open, accessible, and free. They are so simple and so powerful that I call them the Internet’s superpowers.

This is a story about how good can arise from evil, how all of us are smarter than any of us, and of how these superpowers turn each of into leaders.

I arrived in Wellington on the first day of Summer in 1982 in a stiff southerly with pelting rain. I fell in love with early 1980’s New Zealand: it’s classlessness, giving everyone a fair go, respect for diversity, and how everyone has direct access to anyone. But most of all, people seemed to really care about each other. Looking back, the things I love about New Zealand resonate with these superpowers and the golden rule.

In contemporary times, many people feel that technology is an isolating force, a tool used by the state and corporations to trap us in a capitalist downward spiral, as we trudge through our lives staring at our smartphones hoping for fulfilment in the next dollar, gadget, or lolcat.

These are the birthing pains of a new era. We are currently experiencing a silent revolution where power hierarchies are being destroyed. We are refactoring society into a collaborative economy of networked value, where everyone has something to receive and to give, and we treat all others in the way we wish to be treated ourselves.

In order to understand how these superpowers came about, I’d like to give you a short whirlwind history of the Internet.

I was born in 1960, in the dark years of the pre-Internet age, when everything was disconnected. A year later in 1961, Leonard Kleinrock wrote the first paper on packet switching theory, which in modern times controls how data flows on the Internet. On my birthday in 1969, the Network Working Group issued the first “Request for Comment”– RFC 1 – defining the specifics of how computers could talk to each other on an open network, and later that year the first four computers were connected in the US Defence Department’s ARPAnet. Thus you could say the Internet is the bastard child of an unholy union between the war machine of the most powerful country in the world, and a group of geeky academics.

I wrote my first computer program in 1971. The 1970’s and 1980’s saw rapid developments in computing, but in the commercial world, for the most part, computers were islands; when they were connected at all, they were mostly restricted to proprietary networks linking the computers of one organisation.

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed the WorldWideWeb project, and by 1993 Mosaic, the first web browser was released, and the Web as we know it was born. There were 623 web sites at the end of ‘93, 10,000 by the end of ‘94, and earlier this year we crossed the billion mark.

How do you manage such explosive growth, across billions of people, millions of organisations, in 249 country codes? You can’t manage it centrally – it’s too big for anyone or anything to control by themselves. The Internet is the world’s largest and most important collaborative project to date. Its design encourages cooperation, so that ordinary people can benefit from it, so that businesses can profit from it, academics can learn from it, and so on. In the lingo of Internet governance, this is called “multistakeholderism”.

Multistakeholderism means all affected parties can be part of the conversation and decision making process. In other words, “nothing about us without us”.

Why? Because people are a lot more important than the technology. As the Māori proverb says, “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.” Technology is only an enabler – the people are the enabled.

We just heard about the first “Request for Comment” or RFC. The Internet isn’t built on laws, it’s built on these RFC’s agreed by multistakeholder processes. RFC’s cover broad topics like email and file transfer protocols, how domain names work, and so on. There are even RFC’s that address interplanetary communications and datagram delivery by avian carriers … that used to be homing pigeons, but now it’s quadcopters.

One of the most fundamental RFC’s, RFC 760 was issued in 1980, and formalised the Internet Protocol, or IP. Its editor, the late Jon Postel, said that “in general, an implementation should be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior.” Fifteen years later, when Postel was referred to as “the god of the Internet”, he replied, “[T]here isn’t any ‘God of the Internet.’ The Internet works because a lot of people cooperate to do things together.”

The latest governance-related RFC is RFC 7282, just issued in June 2014. It codifies the decision making process in the Internet Engineering Task Force or IETF. It specifically says that “We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.” And how do they arrive at this rough consensus without voting? According to RFC7282, the when chair of the working group wants to get a ‘sense of the room’, instead of a show of hands, the chair might ask for each side to hum on a particular question, either ‘for’ or ‘against’.”

You know you have rough consensus when the hums on one side are a lot louder than the hums on the other.

Let’s practice this – I know you can all hum, so let’s try this now. If you like this decision making process, please hum now.

And if you think it’s stupid, please hum now.

The Internet is what it is today because a small number of people chose to get together, talk, reach consensus, and act. Those who chose to act made a real difference.

Multistakeholder processes were used to determine these four core values in 2009 at the Internet Governance Forum or IGF. These were: End-to-end, Open Standards, Universal Access, and Freedom of expression. These core values are the Internet’s superpowers.

Each of these four superpowers helps us become better as a society, levels the playing field between people, corporations, and nations, and unleashes huge latent economic and social value. In fact, each of us can use the Internet’s superpowers to become heroes. We can activate them through two simple but powerful tools we have – how we spend our time and how we spend our money.

Each superpower has a dark side though, that we must heed to ensure that they are used for good and not evil – that’s up to each of us individually and collectively, it’s not something we can fully delegate to network management algorithms, the IETF, or governments. The best defence against the dark arts, in the words of JK Rowling’s Mad-eye Moody is: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Let’s look at these superpowers more closely.

The first is End-to-end, or “being direct”. The edge-dominant end-to-end model of the Internet means that the network itself should be largely transparent. Any person or device should be able to freely and directly communicate with any other person or device on the network. Intermediaries are unnecessary, unless they add real value.

Being direct is important because it enables us to paint our own picture of the truth, based on data gleaned from the source. In a world without asymmetric knowledge, where everything is knowable, we no longer need external parties to interpret and re-interpret the truth for us.

Being direct results in massive economic value as we can work with smaller and smaller pieces of each other’s value chains, only the bits that are useful to us. We don’t need to buy the whole album when we only want one song. We don’t need to be part of a big company to contribute to society, we only need to do one small thing very well, and work directly with the people to whom that is useful.

But there is a dark side of being direct. Without legislation protecting employees, the environment, and other externalities, we run the risk of all becoming mechanical turks, working piecemeal, competing in an unregulated market for the lowest price.

You can become a hero by using the direct superpower – this is within everyone’s ability. You are a direct hero when you purchase content rather than pirating it, when you upgrade free apps on your phone to paid versions, when you donate to a crowdfunding campaign, when you join a civic cause or help a neighbour you met on the ‘net.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the direct superpower?

The second superpower is Open Standards, or just Open for short. We’ve seen how the RFC process allows everyone to know the rules, and to help make or revise them. These open standards enable full interoperability on the ‘net – this is what lets your iPad talk to my Android.

Open standards turn proprietary Towers of Babel into a cooperative world, where we understand each other, and collaborate in an economy of networked value. If you don’t like one implementation of those standards, use another or write your own. Hate Internet Explorer? Use Firefox. The economic value of these open standards is huge, as well as the value of business ecosystems built around open source, open data, and open content.

One dark side to Open is that security vulnerabilities can hide in broad daylight, as happened recently with the heartbleed exploit, by which millions of web site passwords were stolen. It’s rumoured that the NSA knew about heartbleed for two years before it was discovered, but found it a useful tool for gathering intelligence. Frankly, I’d rather have my vulnerabilities available to everyone to look at and fix, implementing what Eric Raymond called “Linus’s Law”: given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow.

You are an open hero when you use this superpower to join the conversation at a multistakeholder forum like NetHui or an IGF; when you contribute to an Open Source project, when you license one of your works under a Creative Commons or other open license.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the open superpower?

The third superpower is Universal access, or accessible for short. Everyone can play, everyone has equal access, and there is no distinction between producers and consumers – everyone is a participant. You may have heard about this in discussions about the “digital divide” and “net neutrality”. On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog, and it doesn’t matter. Or that you’re Bill Gates, or living below the poverty line, or Deaf, or in New Zealand, or sitting on the throne. Commercially, this extends our potential market as buyers, sellers, contributors or collaborators to everyone, globally. Or any specific niche. Anywhere.

One dark side of universal access is that the bad guys all have access too, and also have have direct, no-cost access to everyone else. That’s why according to Symantec, 68% of all email traffic is SPAM – but the good news is that this is down from nearly 80% a few years ago.

You are an accessible hero whenever you help someone who isn’t as computer literate as you, whenever you donate your old computer for educational use , or give your time or money to organisations who are working to bridge the digital divide; whenever you install security software on your computer to prevent it from becoming infected and infectious.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the accessible superpower?

The fourth superpower is Freedom of expression, or just free. Everyone has the right to participate, securely, privately and anonymously if necessary. Information wants to be free, especially in the sense of “free speech”, but often also in the sense of “free beer”. In the words of John Gilmore, “The Net interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it.

It’s a cliché, but with freedom comes responsibility, and we should be empathetic to those around us and avoid hurting people through exercising our own freedoms.

Of the four superpowers, “free” has the blurriest edges. And the dark side is very dark indeed. How objectionable does content need to be before it should be banned? Should we allow images of child abuse, hate speech, sedition? I believe that these aren’t network issues at all, but rather legal issues for society to decide – your rights are your rights, offline or online.

You are a free hero whenever you add your considered opinion constructively to the debate, when you call out governments and other organisations who are infringing your right to free expression or your right to privacy; when you call out other people who are abusing their freedoms to be hurtful to others. When you donate your time or money to organisations that protect our freedom.

Can you think of a time when you’ve used the free superpower?

If you’ve ever used any of these superpowers, I’d like you to hum now.

If you haven’t used any of these superpowers, I’d like you to hum now.

Thanks – we have consensus, we’re all heroes! Wow!! The whole time, you’ve been a hero and didn’t even know it!

These superpowers have a big economic impact. According to McKinsey is that the Internet accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth in mature economies during the period 2006-2011.

They also have a long-lasting social impact. Although I am religious, I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I believe that when our lives are finished, we leave behind a legacy defined by the transaction trail of how we’ve chosen to act, how we’ve spent our time and money. Judgement Day doesn’t come at the end of your life or the end of time, Judgement Day is every day as we and those around us continually re-evaluate the value of our actions.

Moment by moment, we each make choices that turn each one of us into leaders as we create our own heavens or hells around us through our actions and transactions, drawing others into our either virtuous or vicious cycles.

So I salute you all – you’re the heroes and leaders that will leave us the legacy of the Internet we all deserve – and the world that we all deserve.

But there’s one special group of leaders that I’d like to single out for being our not-so-secret weapon in destroying power hierarchies and creating a collaborative economy of networked value – entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. They’re the people risking everything they have, staring failure in the face every day, leading the creative destruction necessary to bring about a better world, inspiring everyone to be more than they thought possible. They’re the true leaders of the future.

But here’s the most powerful thing of all: We get the best leverage on our superpowers when we help others use their superpowers. In the words of Tom Peters, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”. Building the future we want to live in, treating all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

Please use your newly discovered superpowers wisely.

Be a hero.

Be a leader.

And don’t forget the Golden Rule.

Thank you.

[Please note the following corrigenda from the video: (1) we crossed the billion web sites mark earlier this year, not the ten billion mark.  My mouth was ahead of my brain.  (2) The late Mr Postel’s first name was spelled “Jon”, not “John”, as it appears on the slide.]

Wellington, New Zealand’s Startup Capital

I was invited to Auckland last week to The Project: Digital Disruption to discuss what’s happening in the Wellington startup scene.

Here are my slides:

Wellington, New Zealand’s Startup Capital

Key points:

  • Wellington’s key advantage is its scale.  Everything is accessible within a 20 minute walk – but you need to plan for 30 minutes because you will bump into so many people on your way that are doing cool stuff.
  • We have a high density of tech startups, and a great culture to back it up
  • The weather is conducive to getting sh!t done
  • We have a rich startup ecosystem, which is becoming increasingly antifragile
  • Accelerators, incubators, investors, tertiary education providers, “big” tech, events, and support organisations all play their part
  • Promising trends:
    • Government “gets” it
    • Talent, capital, ideas and expertise are being continually recycled and refined to help us level-up
    • We’re attracting amazing people, and achieving critical mass
    • Things just keep getting better in a cambrian explosion of startups
  • The future is awesome, thanks to the hard work put in by many over a long time – we’re really starting to reap the rewards, and this seems certain to continue.
  • It’s all about the people

My message to the Israeli ambassador: Put down your weapons, and negotiate in good faith

Last night, the Klezmer Rebs performed for the Hanukah party in Wellington’s Civic Square.  I felt particularly elated to be playing Klezmer music in the main square of my home town, a thriving multicultural city that has gone from strength to strength in the thirty years that I’ve called it home.  Props to our Mayor Celia Wade-Brown for inviting the Jewish Community to celebrate in the square.

The main organiser of the event was the Israeli Embassy.  I have never been happy with an embassy organising what is essentially a religious event, for complex reasons which will be articulated in a future blog post.

The Klezmer Rebs collectively, and I personally have been very uncomfortable with the recent actions of the Israeli government, and we feel that there has been no measurable progress toward a sustainable peace, due in significant part to a lack of leadership by the Israeli government.  So we took the opportunity to make a political statement directly to the Ambassador, Shemi Tzur, in our introduction to our medley of peace songs.  I wrote the statement, and the band helped me revise it.  Here’s what I said:

Mr Ambassador, I’m glad you implored people earlier today to pray for peace, but we need more than prayer – we need action.  Praying, singing and dancing for peace aren’t enough; bringing about peace, and overcoming decades of counterproductive attitudes and actions is very hard work and requires individual and collective leadership and commitment from everyone including the Israeli government.  The time has come to tell your Government to show that leadership, put down your weapons, and seriously negotiate in good faith to bring about peace.  Bombing civilians and building settlements on land whose ownership is in question is not good faith.  Fulfil the words of Isaiah, and show that Israel is called into righteousness as a light unto the nations.  The time is now.

Prior to making that statement, I called to Shemi by name from the stage to make sure he was paying attention.  He was standing directly in front of the PA, and I looked him in the eye as I made the statement.  Today’s DomPost ran an article on page 2 (print version only) entitled “Peace plea made to Israeli envoy at Hanukkah Concert”, which said that “… Mr Tzur said via a spokesman he had not heard the message and had no further comment”.  All I can say is that this is an indication that the Israeli government is either disingenuous, pathologically deaf, or both.

We feel it is important that the Ambassador and his government hear this message from Jews.  Many of us abhor the actions of the Israeli government, and feel that successive governments since 1967 have let down their citizens, the Jewish People, and the world through their inaction and lack of leadership to address the fundamental issues that need to be resolved to create a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Several people came up to me after the concert and congratulated me for the courage to make such a statement publicly.  Only one person approached me, my cousin, and admonished me for making political statements on behalf of the Jewish community at a public event. Nowhere had I purported to be making statements on behalf of anyone, other than myself and the band, but I do know that there a large segment of the local Jewish community agrees with the statement that I made.

We are at a turning point.  Some would say that we are beyond the point of no return, but I am a perennial optimist and know that with enough good will and political pressure, we can make real progress toward peace.  And if they can’t hear us, perhaps we need to turn the volume up.

My Speech at Islam Awareness Week 2010 – From awareness through engagement to partnership

From Awareness through Engagement to Partnership:
Cultivating Positive Emotions for a Healthy Society

Dave Moskovitz – Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation (Temple Sinai)
Speech to Islam Awareness Week launch at Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington, NZ
2 August 2010

Distinguished Guests, members of the FIANZ council, Ladies and Gentlemen – Shalom Aleichem, thank you for inviting me to speak again this year in the Masjid at Islam Awareness Week 2010 on the topic Cultivating Positive Emotions for a Healthy Society.

The theme is apt, and I love the metaphor of cultivating emotions, as if they were a crop being prepared for harvest. Often we go through life forgetting that each interaction we have with others forms part of a programme of cultivating relationships, and that ultimately we reap what we sow in terms of the relationships we build. As it is written in the books of Job (4:8), “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it”, and Hosea (10:12), “Sow for yourselves righteousness [and] reap the fruit of unfailing love”.

In contemporary society we are often led to believe by popular culture that our emotions are responses to events outside our control, but we also know through many psychological studies that we can have a positive effect on our own emotions. Interestingly, studies have shown that religious people are twice as likely to report being “very happy” than their irreligious counterparts. So you could say that even scientists agree that religion is a good thing if you’re looking for happiness.

But today, I’d like to talk about some specific ways we Muslims, Christians and Jews can cultivate the positive emotions we would so much like to characterise our lives, and public perception of our religions, and more specifically, the interaction between our religions as well as interactions between adherents of our religions.

For me, if we would like people to have positive emotions about our religions, we must seek a greater state of empathy between ourselves and others. Empathy means identifying with and understanding another person’s situation, feelings, and motives. Without empathy, we are necessarily prejudiced in our outlook; without really knowing someone else and their situation, we are stuck resorting to stereotypes and third-party accounts to try to figure out what makes them tick.

I believe there are three specific steps we can take to develop this empathy: awareness, engagement, and partnership.

The first step is “awareness”, understanding the other person’s context; their whakapapa, their history, their belief system, what’s important to them. I applaud Islam Awareness Week for being an important door-opener both for Muslims and Non-Muslims to find out more about each other and take the first step toward developing deeper relationships.

The second step, “engagement”, is to connect directly as people, to build person-to-person relationships. In the engagement step, we can begin to understand the other’s self-image, challenges, struggles, aspirations, and vision for the future for themselves, their whanau, their community, and the world. Once one starts engaging, you learn a lot more about the richness of experience of the other, warts and all, and we do have warts. None of us are perfect, we all have strong points and weak points, and any direct relationship or friendship which cultivates positive emotions needs to take into account both the positive and the negative.

We can only do this on the basis of honesty, transparency, and mutual respect, which must be based on trust. I am not aware of any shortcuts for developing trust between people; trust is something that is earned, rather than something that is given. There are no quick fixes, and it can take years or even decades for people to interact with each other to the point where they can know that they are safe sharing information, and can rely on each other for support. In some cases this involves acknowledging and overcoming the past, both individually and collectively. We learn to respect others, even if we disagree with some of their fundamental assumptions about the world. It can be hard work, emotionally draining, and downright risky. But the reward for being able to punch through the stereotypes and have a glimpse of the true inner soul of another person is very much worth the effort, and even necessary if we want to create a society where we can live together as partners. And the empathy that enables us to view the world through another’s eyes gives us unimaginable insight into our own fundamental beliefs, our views of each other, our communities, society, and even God.

Confidence is a critically important ingredient in this kind of engagement. If we are not confident about our own identity, our own beliefs, and our own security we become worried about our own identity, beliefs, and security being overtaken or even attacked by those with whom we are engaging. It’s up to us and our communities to encourage, develop, and build up our own confidence before we embark on a programme of engagement with others. It’s really hard to cultivate positive emotions without underlying confidence.

The third step to deep empathy – partnership – is to envision and create a shared future, where we work together as partners, helping each other to thrive. Like a well-functioning marriage, we put the needs of others equal to our own, respecting and valuing our differences, and treat each other with generosity, understanding, and even love. We know each others’ limitations, sore points, quirks, drivers, goals, affinities and strengths. Our own objectives for our wider society become entwined, and we work together on them side-by-side for the common good. I mentioned earlier that religious people tend to be happier than irreligious people, but I am also pleased to report that married people tend to be happier than singles. I believe that the common element between these phenomena is that working together for shared goals, and celebrating the achievement of those goals together, is an excellent way to increase happiness.

I’d also like to say that whether or not we cooperate in partnership, our futures are nevertheless entwined. The choice is ours as to whether we explore how we can work together enjoyably and cooperatively, or expend our scarce resources on fighting each other. That choice seems clear to me.

So this is why I believe that empathy is the key to going forward in our relationship, and that developing that empathy can be achieved through three steps: awareness, engagement, and partnership. It would be really cool if Islam Awareness Week were to evolve into Islam Engagement Week, and eventually to Islam Partnership Week. However, at that stage it’s an ongoing process and not something that only happens one week every year.

The road ahead however is likely to be bumpy, and entails a significant amount of risk. There are a number of groups, the haters, to whom partnership is not a desirable outcome, and to whom divisiveness is far more valuable than cohesion.

So how do we deal with the haters? We all know them, they exist within our own communities, as well as externally in wider society. The haters believe that if we get to know each other, cooperate and even partner with each other, our own core values somehow become polluted, and we run the risk of being taken over by “the other”. The haters have no place in a pluralistic society such as 21st Century New Zealand, and indeed if the world is going to survive into the 22nd Century, we need to work together to either bring them into the age of empathy and partnership, or disempower them and make them irrelevant.

To disempower the haters, we can stand together with each other, both in our own communities and together as people who believe in a pluralistic future, and drown out their message of hate with our own message of cooperation. When one group seeks to deligitimise another, or suggests that violence is an appropriate method to bring about specific goals, together we can stand up to those haters in our own communities and say “No”. If enough of us do this within our own groups, and often enough, we will have an impact, one person at a time, one issue at a time. It’s worth noting that this is far more effective when we do this within our own groups, as to tell another group how to behave is generally considered to be interfering and divisive.

We cannot pretend to understand God’s will, but our religions all teach us that life is sacred, and that we should avoid violence, anger and strife. The book of Proverbs tells us, “A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth, but the soul of the treacherous shall eat violence” (13:12), “Make no friendship with a man that is given to anger; and with a wrathful man thou shalt not go” (22:24) and “It is an honour for a man to keep aloof from strife; but every fool will be quarreling” (20:3)

The media are often distinctly unhelpful, because their business model is based on selling stories, and people are much more excited by violence, anger and strife than they are by peace, cooperation, and friendliness. Watching news reports, you would think that the world is becoming ever more violent. In his delightful 2007 essay “A History of Violence”, Steven Pinker shows how violence has been in steady decline in society over the last several centuries, and proposes four theories about why this might be so. Whatever the underlying cause, you can bet that good footage of a bombing will always trump a snapshot former enemies shaking hands. The lesson for us is that the personal relationships that we forge – one relationship at a time – will carry much more weight than media reports. One day the haters will wake up to find that people would cooperate with each other to build a better society, rather than blast each other into the stone age. To paraphrase Nietzsche, with no-one to listen to their sensationalism, the traditional media will be dead, replaced by direct relationships between people and the sources they trust.

Using empathy as a tool to work from awareness, through engagement, to partnership, we can begin to emulate those aspects of God which we hold most admire. Just take the first five of the 99 attributes of God: Ar-Rahman – the Compassionate; Ar-Rahim – the Merciful; Al-Malik – the Ruler; Al-Quddus – the Holy; As-Salam – the Peaceful. I’d like to point out that all of these Arabic words are cognates with their Hebrew equivalents; they are essentially the same words, and represent qualities in God that Jews hold equally dear. We all seek to emulate these attributes, which are completely aligned with empathy and partnership.

So now that we are building awareness during Islam Awareness Week, let us resolve to start work toward the next phase – engagement, so that we can ultimately move on to partnership. Muslims, Christians and Jews have much fertile ground with which to cultivate positive relationships. A small number of us have been quietly breaking the soil, and we are now ready to be joined by many others who are ready to work alongside us. Join us in sharing our rich traditions with each other with confident respect, and learning more about each other so that we can work together in partnership for our common good.

Thank you.

Creative Destruction in the Music Industry at Ignite Wellington

Ignite Wellington was part of Global Ignite Week, and I was invited to do a talk as part of this exciting and (as a presenter) nerve-wracking endeavour.  Each presenter is given exactly 5 minutes to present, and allocated 20 Powerpoint slides which are automatically advanced every 15 seconds; the presenter has no control over the pace.  My Twitter and Facebook friends helped me decide to do a talk on Creative Destruction in the Music Industry, which you can watch below.