Ecosystems, networks, and problem-solving

Mon 26 April – Sun 2 May 2021

Second week in my new job and I am sorting out how to have a job but still do all the non-work things in my life I want to do. Plus there are things I have a duty to do like look after my mum. What I’m realising is that I am creating ecosystems and within those networks plus so much of life is simply problem-solving.

Ecosystems and networks

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. 

Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking about how often what we do in life is making and maintaining ecosystems. These are not just about people. The ecosystems we create and live in are about inanimate stuff as well like processes, learning, shared goals as well as the physical environment. However a key part of any ecosystem are the networks of people we set within them. Ultimately these are people we care about and who give meaning to our lives.

Everything is about problem-solving

Whilst my new job in particular is making me realise the importance of ecosystems and networks, I’ve also been reflecting on problem-solving. Basically my theory is that everything is about solving problems. No matter how much we dislike it there will be problems throughout our lives in so many different areas. What we are constantly trying to do is solve those problems.

This doesn’t mean that we are going to solve them all. But whenever we attempt to solve a problem then things are changed. Every action has a reaction even when the answer would appear to be to do nothing. This does not mean we are always successful and problems are solved. Perhaps problems are never solved, merely altered. Indeed, clearly nothing is ever ‘finished’ and there are always ripples from everything we do and every action we take that go on forever.

Tech For Good

My new role has taken me back to this area that fascinates me. Sometimes we have to go back to go forward. Tech For Good is about how we harness new technology and innovation to make the world a better place. Surely the purpose of tech in particular is to solve problems and make life easier – to create better ecosystems. And if it is isn’t that then what is its point? Though tech in itself is neutral. It is intended to solve the problems we have identified but ultimately we decide whether it makes things better or worse.

Tech for Good

I’m on a massive learning curve in my new job

Not only learning about the formalities of the organisation but also working out how systems and processes work. As well as just getting to know people. Induction took place in week one and week two (last week) is what is referred to as onboarding. This is about learning details of how your job is to be done, what is to be achieved, and getting to know the colleagues I will be working with. Yep, I am getting to understand my work ecosystem. 🙂

Creating networks

To find ways how to use tech to make things better and improve society, I am establishing networks. One is the the internal colleagues I will work with in order to deliver social change tech projects. Another network is the people who are part of the wider Tech for Good philosophical movement – some I know of old and some new contacts I need to make.

Finally, there are people outside of these 2 networks who want simply to use tech to solve problems and make things better. And last week I started having conversations with people who I had never met before but who had suggested we could talk to find solutions via tech.

I love networking. It’s all about creating connections that may come in useful or may not – and no-one knows how long that may take. But networking also makes me realise we are all humans and we should see each other in that light not just for how useful we are to each other.

Quotation by Einstein about value

Family and Friends

Family

A vital part of my ecosystem is my family. I look after them, they look after me. Managed to spend more time with mum last week compared to the previous one when I was so busy with my induction. This took responsibility from my brother’s shoulders. Good that I was with mum on Saturday as she had a bad turn. Managed to get her to bed and she was better by the next day. But it’s probably a taste of what is to come. 🙁

Friends

Friends are a network of people we care about who probably aren’t colleagues nor family relatives. And they are a key part of an ecosystem helping to give it shape, purpose, meaning. My feeling is that I haven’t been great at keeping in touch with friends and this saddens me. I think it was particularly true after being made redundant. Suppose I felt shock and that they would feel I was just contacting them to try to get a job. It feels so much better now to be able to contact people because I have a role and I think we can support and help each other. 🙂

Tech for Good networks across the globe

Health and Efficiency

Mental health and sleep

My head feels good these days. I’ve got pressure from my new job already though that’s because I want to be successful and I still want to change the world. Indeed, one of my key issues will be making sure I don’t work over my paid 3 days and use my free time productively to do other things not just to recover. But it is true that we need purpose in life. Indeed, that sort of purpose helps us understand our position and role in an ecosystem.

And currently my exciting new job is giving me clear purpose and I am enjoying that. So my mental health is good. One way this is showing itself is that my sleep is better. Still waking early – my body is very related to daylight. That explains why I am a ‘morning person’ rather than a ‘night owl’. But I am not waking in the middle of the night with my head whirring even though I have lots to think about.

Walking and weight

I have written many times about how long walks help me relax and think. That need for exercise is a key physical component of my ecosystem. Indeed, when I dwell on it I realise how much I miss the gym I used to go to pre-pandemic. 🙁 But several long purposeful walks last week. 🙂 However, I’m noting my weight may be creeping up over 13 stone 5 pounds. Suspect it may be to do with the change in my life over the past few weeks and the lack of exercise last week in particular. Need to make sure this doesn’t become a permanent shift upwards.

Personal Development

Personal improvement is something that drives me. I suppose I’m trying to use it in part to help solve the problems that I see in my ecosystem. If I can speak more languages then I am not just tied to anywhere. I am a bit of a nomad and I don’t like being trapped. And if I am more proficient in tech and understand it better then I may be able to progress Tech for Good more which will enable more problem-solving and ‘make things better’.

Languages

Definite improvement in my language learning last week. I’m trying a new methodology which is to do language module on Duolingo during gaps in the day. We all need time-outs and distractions. These modules only take a few minutes. Result at the end of the week was a lot larger amount of total time spent language learning over the week compared to the previous week. 🙂

Tech

But swings and roundabouts. I made real progress in language learning last week. 🙂 But a knock-on was that I spent less time on tech learning. 🙁 I noted in my previous blog (read it here) that trying to learn coding may not be the best way forward. And going back to Tech for Good plus being immersed in tech company is helping my wider tech understanding. So perhaps my overall tech knowledge is growing. But I feel like I still need to understand better what is ‘under the bonnet’ in digital tech.

inter-connected tech

Art and Culture

The White Ribbon

I watched this very atmospheric film that has been helping to reawaken my knowledge of German. It’s funny how you suddenly remember certain words and their meaning. 🙂 The film itself is black and white laying out strange and menacing events that happen in a rural Prussian community just before WWI. It’s supposed to help explain how this type of society was susceptible to the rise of Nazism. Seems a bit unfair as I suspect English and French rural places were as equally depressing and stultifying. Still, a film I would strongly recommend. 🙂

Line of Duty – living with low level endemic corruption and incompetence

Like a large percentage of the UK population, me and Dave have been glued to this drama each Sunday evening. I’m not usually into police and crime TV dramas. But I saw the last LoD series, didn’t intend to get drawn into this one but it happened. It is so well written and acted, the characters are wonderful – we really feel for (or hate) them. TBH, the plot has been a bit confusing particularly with so many references to past series. And there were some clear holes but, hey, it’s drama. 🙂

One of the key successes has been not releasing this online to binge as a box-set in one go. So we are back to the wonderful old skool situation of having to watch it on terrestrial TV each week. That builds up enormous tension and gets people talking plus no-one can give away the plot. This is a brilliant example of good marketing.

Was I disappointed with the last episode as many were? Perhaps I was when I was watching it but then with hindsight, I thought it was a very satisfactory jumping off point. Basically it was saying what is so true in normal life: there is often no single evil genius, low-level corruption is overlooked and endemic, simple greed motivates most wrongdoing, and incompetence is frequently promoted. 🙁

Sustainability

A key component of a successful ecosytem is that it is sustainable. This is what we mean when we talk about a circular economy. If an ecosystem can’t sustain itself then it will ultimately exhaust itself. I continue to be enamoured of nature spending time looking after mine and Dave’s plants. As well as observing the birds that come to Dave’s balcony and getting out into urban green spaces.

Charity shops

Meanwhile I’ve made some more trips to the charity shops trying to avoid buying more stuff I don’t need even though the money goes to a good cause. I have been enticed with some absolute bargains like 5 DVDs for £1 and a hoodie for the same amount that simply needed a bloody good wash. 🙂

Giving new life to unwanted stuff

Also carrying on with my selling off of stuff. Simply because I don’t need it and someone else can get satisfaction from it whilst I get money to put in my rainy day fund. 🙂 The cost of postage is a big obstacle here as is indeed the cost of materials to wrap stuff up. So whilst I walk I keep my eyes open for stuff being chucked that I can use. I’ve found padded envelopes, bubble wrap, rubber bands, and cardboard. It’s enormously satisfying to take something that is rubbish and make it useful. 🙂

Extinction Rebellion

Books and Reading

Regular blog readers will know that this is a key component of my ecosystem. I can’t imagine a life without books. Indeed, one of my big fears is losing my eyesight or having some other physical complication that would stop me being able to read. 🙁

‘Hamnet’

My target is to read at least one book per week. However, no books completed last week. 🙁 But I am well into reading two books. First, on my kindle as I do my walks, I am about two-thirds of the way through ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell. Very good indeed, it is the true story of Shakespeare’s wife and children. There have been loads of books about his life but this one is very much from the perspective of the key women in his wider family and his children.

‘The Last Protector’

Second, I am about 25% into Andrew Taylor’s book ‘The Last Protector’. I do like historical crime novels and this is the fourth adventure of two accidental investigators (James Marwood and Cat Lovett) in Restoration England. Clever plotting and good characterisation plus a wonderful sense of the period is created. Indeed, the writer makes clear the unpleasantness of the time. Not just the unappealing physical environment but also the undesirable political situation. One of the biggest regrets in history – why England couldn’t have settled down as a republic? 🙁

Rows and rows of beautiful books

The Week Ahead

  • Carry on nurturing my ecosystem particularly through building my networks and exploring how tech can solve social problems 🙂
  • Several zoom / phone catch-ups including Phyllis, Dilhani, and Irene. Also dinner with my old friends Dom and Richard on Sat evening. 🙂
  • Hooray, the first May Bank Holiday. 🙂 One of the things I love about Spain is the extra bank holidays – makes life so much more civilised.
  • Two days at work – still settling down but also making plans for action
  • Time with mum and long walks in-between her place and Dave’s 🙂
  • Finish both books and start a new one. Tis Velvet Page book club on Thurs but don’t think I’ll make it
  • Have started to watch a good French thriller ‘Hidden’
  • Elections on Thursday – always important to use your vote and make a mark even if you just spoil the ballot paper 🙂

And Finally…

Election time

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