This Revolution needs a Revolution

Yesterday I went with my wife and son to visit the Victoria & Albert’s Museum exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The aim of the exhibition was quite clear:

How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?

I was very much looking forward to visiting the exhibition. It is SO timely, and SO needed, I thought.

After visiting it, I left enraged. Why? After all, it was very well “put together”, full of artifacts and information, with a fancy sound system, and beautifully arranged and orchestrated.

ORGANIZED

More importantly, it was not a nostalgic attempt at regurgitating old revolutionary slogans.

What enraged me is how co-opted the whole collection felt. How all those efforts and sacrifices, how all that energy and suffering from past revolutionaries, has been assimilated by the system.

From the ® Registered slogans to the “no photographs” signs at the entrance (to which I, OF COURSE, paid no attention to whatsoever):

® slogan!

To the texts denouncing powerful corporations and states controlling Western media making it difficult to broadcast alternative opinions. You don’t say??!! How about adding “even museums”?

You don't say??!!

Of course, the whole thing had a watered down flavor, “ready for the masses to consume it” (at over£17 or over $20 per ticket). Not just because of the large dedicated-store (“Exit through the gift store” as Banksy brilliantly highlighted), where many appealing objects were for sale for nostalgics and revolutionary wannabes.

Interesting mash up poster

But also for the paternalistic tone of the whole exhibition, surgically isolating issues (identity, sexuality, peace, music, fashion…), even (correctly) including the new contemporary totemic theological substitute: technology.

Origins of Personal Computers

I was very happy and proud to tell my son that his grandmother was in Paris throwing cobblestones to the police in the student revolts of 1969; that his grandfather took me, when I was a little kid, to see a forbidden theater play during Spain’s democratic transition, fearing the secret police repression; that I participated as a kid in discussions with adults about anarchism and communism, when both were outlawed in Spain; and that I have participated in some of the revolutions and protests that came in the decades after that.

I’m not angry because they took “my” revolutions and repackaged them for easy digestion by accommodating masses. That was foreseeable, and an obvious result of the reigning empire of consumerist capitalism.

I’m not even nostalgically refusing to accept that times have changed.

What really annoyed me and made me angry was the lack of reference to a combative present, to the continuation of the struggle.

The fact that they showed, at the end of the exhibition “How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today” but completely left out “and think about the future” is what enraged me. Particularly as Trump is president in the USA, May PM in GB, the PP rule Spain, the far right advances in France…

We need to remember that the fight is not over, that fascism is not only back, but stronger and more powerful than ever. We, all of us, and the institutions that serve us, including museums, have a duty to promote thoughtful debate around ethics and values, and fiercely protest and fight through self-organisation, unity, and collaboration. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to those who fought for us in the past, we owe it to those who will come after us.

If the urban bourgeoisie wants to be the first to fall under the boot of the oppressors again, so be it. If proto and pseudo-intellectuals endlessly self-delude themselves into thinking that our democracies and institutions will save us from authoritarian demagogues, fascist megalomaniacs, and our own blind pursuit of endless consumerism, so be it. In the meantime, I will be teaching my children about the struggle and participating in the smartest and most effective way I can.

My EU policy recommendation published: “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy Reform”

Under the title “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy ReformStartupEurope has published a report listing the Policy Recommendations that came out of the Policy Hackathon in San Francisco, where my team won the competition.

Download it here.

Interview for the art exhibition that I have curated and is currently being shown in Kaunas, Lithuania

INTERVIEW with JORGE CORTELL, curator
By Airida Rekštytė – November 4, 2016

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According to your profound theoretical education (sic) it will not be difficult to present us in short your intentions for organizing this event.

When did the idea of making this exhibition occur and what inspired it?

I have spent years as activist defending free software and online privacy, and opposing censorship.
During a dinner with the director of an event that focuses on those themes (the Internet Freedom Festival, also known as Circumvention Festival), I told him how it would be a nice challenge to try to convey the main messages of the Festival’s themes into an art exhibition. And he said, let’s do it!

What is your personal relationship with the internet and its possibilities? Have you encountered limitations for your freedom? Do you think this is an issue in democratic countries?

I have been an early adopter of technologies since I can remember, and most of my companies are or have been technology-based.
Internet freedom is under constant threat, not only in undemocratic societies, but also by democratic governments and their “intelligence” organizations worldwide. The main example is all we have learned about the US government and the NSA spying on not only their citizens but also other countries (their allies), thanks to Edward Snowden.

In internet space you declare that you are in opposition to the concept of Intellectual Property. How would you describe your attitude? In what sense your views affect this exhibition?

I used to lecture on “Intellectual Property” (as an Assistant Professor in Spain, and as a Visiting Professor in 60 universities worldwide), and my lectures lasted hours, so I will try to condense all that in a few paragraphs 😉
Intellectual “Property” is wrong both from a conceptual level and a practical level.
From a conceptual level, it is an oxymoron, as “intellectual” can not be “property”, since all intellectual activity emanates and feeds from previous intellectual activities. It is culture and communication. It can not be “fenced”, and “packaged”. It is as absurd as saying “my son” or “my neighbor” is “mine” (as a possession). Just like contemporary societies reject the notion of slavery, we should reject the notion of “intellectual property”.
In the same way, from a practical level we can not and should not rely on a “temporary monopoly” as a way to incentivize the creation of artistic and/or intellectual works. Both the “temporary” (term which is being constantly increased and is now way above anything remotely reasonable) and the “monopoly” (which has been proven to be counterbenefitial to society and the economy) are deeply wrong and flawed.
Does that mean that “content creators” and “artists” and “authors” should not receive monetary compensation for their efforts? Not necessarily. What it means is that the current methods to try to achieve that only create artificial scarcity and the restriction of freedom and culture.

Behind each artwork there is a story and a reason why it is in this collection. It would be interesting to know your motivations, but perhaps it would take too long for you to answer. I would like to ask you about Patricija Gilyte since she has many fans in Lithuania. What was your motivation for picking her? How would you relate her to your topics?

I first saw her work in an Art Show in London, and I automatically knew she had to be part of this exhibition. I know an artist and her work is really especial when I want to write a book about it.
“TRI_GALAXIAN L4116” in particular is uniquely exquisite. It has a balance, a rhythm, and a whole flow that asks to be translated to narrative, to dance, to any other form, so it can take a life of its own.
At a surface level it makes you wonder, it intrigues the viewer, and opens up possibilities as to what is it that you are witnessing, while enjoying it all along. And I think it is that mix of wonder and pleasure that really attracted me to her piece.
I see “TRI_GALAXIAN L4116” as the embodiment of intangible and ethereal Diversity.
Diversity is a hotly debated cultural issue. Whether we are talking workplace or demographically. But it relates to much more than that. And I wanted an artwork that took the conversation beyond the current limitations of the “Diversity” discourse.

Finally, which artwork is your favorite and better represents the idea of exhibition?

I have a very rational approach to encompass systemically both ethics and aesthetics. For that reason, I refuse to restrict myself unless absolutely necessary. So I have not thought about “a favorite”. But if I was absolutely forced to select one, I would have to consider it from different points of view:

– Concept: “Juego” by Mery. It has the subversive power of technology hidden under an apparently traditional painting.
– Artist: Claudio Zirotti. I really like how he has, for decades, continuously explored new artistic venues, refusing to limit himself to a single medium, style or message.
– Aesthetics: “TRI_GALAXIAN L4116″ by Patricija Gilyte. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and gracious. It’s the kind of work you fall in love with.
– History:”Jungle Emperor” by Osamu Tezuka. The story behind the controversy (plagiarism by Disney in “The Lion King”) is a fascinating story of inspiration, betrayal, aggression, and eventually history putting everyone in their right place.
– Playfulness: “[Fake] Banksy” by Dave Cicirelly. It’s a recursive play on Banksy’s playfulness.

I won the Anti-Patents Policy Hackathon


On September 13, Mind the Bridge hosted a policy hackathon sponsored by Dell at the MTB Innovation Center in San Francisco. The Dell PolicyHack™ brought together entrepreneurs and U.S./EU policy experts to solve policy challenges. The goal is to productively brainstorm and to provide top-line thinking that can inspire and serve as basis to develop and implement full policies.

My team was formed by:

  • Sara R. Klucking (Section Chief, Innovation & Programs, Office of Science and Technology Cooperation, US Department of State)
  • Bogdan Ceobanu (Policy Officer, Startups & Innovation, European Commission)
  • David Hodgson (CEO, Hummingbird Labs)
  • me

The five teams had 75 minutes to come up with a policy solution to issue areas that impact entrepreneurs. Each team was then be given five minutes to pitch their solution to the panel of judges formed by:

  • Pēteris Zilgalvis (Head of Unit, Startups and Innovation, European Commission)
  • John Zysman (Professor Emeritus, Political Science, UC Berkeley)
  • Burton Lee (European Entrepreneurship, Stanford University)
  • Richard Boly (Principal, Beaurichly Llp)
  • Alberto Onetti (Chairman, Mind the Bridge and Startup Europe Partnership).

Master of ceremony was Kristen Mattern (Senior Government Affairs Manager, Dell). The issue areas were: funding, trade, migration, patents, and privacy. Obviously, I chose patents.

When I started telling my team my ideas about patents (basically, how to effectively end the system, since it is so broken and dysfunctional, and what would happen), they thought I was out of my mind. But I ended up convincing them with evidence. So finally my proposals were the ones I presented . We were supposed to present as a group, but Sara and David fled right before we were up for the presentation, and Bogdan “let me do the talking” and the answering of questions.

Although the other teams did a great job, my team won!

The award: to have my ideas written in a paper that will be presented to the European Commission as “expert policy advice”.

It’s ironic: over a decade after I was lobbying against software patents in the European Commission in Brussels, having Microsoft’s lobbyist as my main adversaries, now the European Commission takes my anti-patents ideas as expert advice, and Microsoft is my free-software company’s main partner. I guess time puts everything in its place.

That’s how you hack the system from inside.

Although I never believed that was the way to real and meaningful change, at least now I can say “been there, done that”.

Playing in London… even with Microsoft!

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These past few days have been quite “playful”.
On the one hand, I have just discovered, right around the corner from our apartment by London Bridge, a free and public playground that has an artificial grass hockey field, half a basketball court, 3 pingpong tables and even a beach volleyball court with sand and all! So obviously, the next day I went with my son to a sports equipment store and bought a soccer ball, a pingpong set, a basketball, a volleyball and a badminton set. Time to hit the court!

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Talking about pingpong, this past week I have had several meetings and events in interesting places, like the Francis Crick Institute reception at the May Fair Hotel, but the most playful one was the Innovation Club meet up organized by Microsoft at Bounce, a private pingpong club with a waiting list of 3 months! Who would have thought I would be playing pingpong with Microsoft executives and discussing open standards and free software a few years after having had to lobby against them and their defense of software patents at the European Parliament?. The tech world surely is a rapidly evolving one.

My talk at the Circumvention Tech Festival, March 4th

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This past winter I met Sandy and James from Open ITP in New York, and Pepe from Valencia. They were organizing the Circumvention Tech Festival to be held in Las Naves, Valencia (Spain) March 1-6.

They invited me to give a talk, which was eventually scheduled for March 4th at 3pm. I titled the talk “When privacy does not mean the same to you and me”. It was meant to generate debate, to expose other people’s points of view, rather than to be a unidirectional speech.

Nonetheless, my talk was but one of many meetings, talks, workshops, and debates that James, Sandy and the whole team put together. iRex, Tor, Pirate Party, Censorship.no, Ooni, Xnet, Alkasir, ASL19… It ended up being one of the most awesome events of this kind I have ever attended, with circumvention activist and journalists from all over the world sharing their experiences and projects with the community.

The last night I threw a party for all those who wanted to attend at Kanteron’s offices in Valencia. We had fun 🙂

I can’t wait for next year’s edition!

Bitcoin – block chain event in New York

On Monday, February 9, I attended a Bitcoin – Blockchain event with my wife at law firm Latham & Watkins in New York, organized by Hedgeable.

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Over 100 bitcoin enthusiasts, investors, journalists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs networking over food and beverages, with demos from:

and a round table of Bitcoin innovation experts:

Since I have already started researching the application of the block chain technology for healthcare, it was quite a useful event. But walking around Manhattan at -4ºF is not fun 😉

HTO: a hyper-reading project

Iban M. G. and Ben Martin have launched a writing project that breaks the boundaries of typical book in paper/digital format. Over the years I have seen many attempts to push the publishing world further. All commendable and appreciated. But so far I have not seen any project as ambitious as HTO.

Note: Literary review aside. I have not read the novel yet and, as a matter of fact, that’s irrelevant for the purposes of this post.

HTO. Hostile Takeover is a literary saga action and science fiction in Spanish. The first novel in the series,“El legado de Henry Bobson” is already available for about $4.85 (€ 3.95) in eBook format licensed under Creative Commons with a reading mode they call hyper-reading. You can also read for free the first seven chapters of the novel from a new online reader they have developed. They have also created an online enciclopedia to clarify concepts, characters, plots and the future of the project.

As if this were not enough, once you buy the book you can download the novel in several formats, DRM-free, 4 times, and they even ask “please, share it with your friends using our PRO piracy system and your social networks.”

But what’s more unique is that you can access a private area with:

  • Access to private downloads
  • Exclusive content
  • Gammification-badge-accomplishment system
  • Hyper-reading using smartphones, codes and online content
  • An account in the Bank of Ishtar with an initial virtual currencydeposit to invest in development of HTO packs

I wish them the best of lucks, and I applaud their initiative. These are the people who will “kill” publishers (and we should all cheer) if they don’t “get with the program”. If they were smart, and wanted to grow and stay in business competitively, major publishers should offer them a place in their boardrooms now. But we all know that it is easier to manipulate prices with monopolistic measures, go crying to government officials and the media, impose DRM even harming their own clients and the dissemination of culture, and require legislative measures which enable repression forces to chase anyone seeking culture.

Congratulations Iban and Ben! The future is yours. You have earned it.

Disclaimer: I have known Iban M. G. 7 years. But I write this post not because he is a friend, but because the project seems great.

The Circumvention Tech Festival

November 4th I had a very interesting non-business meeting in New America NYC, 199 Lafayette (New York). I met Sandra Ordonez of OpenITP, one of the organizers of The Circumvention Tech Festival.

OpenITP is an American project that supports the software developers and communities that design and develop anti-surveillance and anti-censorship in the internet (“circumvention tools”), allowing citizens to communicate directly and freely in their own terms. Their objective is to identify opportunities to improve and increase the distribution of these tools.

Right now they are organizing the Circumvention Tech Festival, event that will bring the international anti-surveillance and anti-censorship community to Valencia (Spain) March 1-6, 2015. Developers, activists, journalists, citizens, NGOs and more joining forces.

The festival will consist of a week of conferences, workshops, hackathons, and social gatherings featuring many of the Internet Freedom community’s flagship events. It will also feature two community-run series – one in English and one in Spanish, as well as public events designed to familiarize the local Valencian community with FLOSS privacy and security tools and their communities.

Website in English: www.circumventionfestival.org

Website in Spanish: www.circumventionfestival.es

Would you like to contribute? They need:

  • Small donations to help pay for Internet infrastructure, coffee, evening events, and marketing materials
  • Companies that want to setup a table in our security & privacy expo
  • Bilingual volunteers that can help man the festival for a few hours a day
  • Spanish and English speakers, that want to give a talk, or organize a hackathon/workshop relating to the FLOSS security/privacy space

Don’t miss this amazing festival, and try to help in any way you can!

Wearable review: Withings Pulse Ox, WS-30 WiFi scale, and Blood Pressure Monitor

Due to the launch of the biosensors module for my company’s medical imaging and data solution a few days ago, the Withings company sent me a biosensor (wearable) Withings Pulse Ox, manometer BPM and WiFi WS-30 scale for testing and integration tests ahead of some national projects we are about to sign in London and Santiago de Chile.

All three came in luxury packaging, and were relatively easy to connect and set up, at least for a “tinkerer” (there are people who gets annoyed if I use “hacker” as a synonym, although it is) like me.

The WS-30 scale is connected via WiFi, and sends the weight and BMI, either to the “cloud” or to another application (data accessible via API) and synchronizes it with the phone, either Apple’s iOS or Android, as in my case, by its own application or connection with third-party applications.

scale

The BPM blood pressure cuff is one of those devices that doctors place around a patients’ arm and inflate to measure blood pressure. In this case it’s the same, but driven by a phone, and measurements are wirelessly synchronized as explained above in the case of  the scale, but there is also the option of using a USB cable.

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Finally, the Pulse Ox is a “bracelet-type” or “clock” device showing (depending on configuration) with each press of its single button: day / time, blood oxygen level (SpO2) and pulse, quantity and quality of sleep, steps, distance and elevation. It’s really light and comfortable to wear, easy to use, and I like its design.

Pulse Ox

These are certainly excellent devices, and I really appreciate them opening access to the data, unlike others (like Basis).

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I shall not comment on the benefits and dangers of this “quantify-self” trend to quantify all personal activities (although in my case I do it for work and aim to provide data and monitoring to certain patients in a simple, integrated mode). What is certain is that with the “internet of things” (IoT) there is no escape from this trend of quantifying that some denounce as “reductionist” or “dehumanizing”, while others see as a panacea to solve all kinds of problems. I prefer to focus my efforts in trying to make sure that if it has to happen, it is an open, integrated, interoperable, and privacy-safeguarded accessible way. And that’s what I’m working on (or rather my great team of developers).

The market for these devices is growing at full speed, although they are not exactly cheap (yet). Each has advantages and disadvantages. From Intel to Apple through Nike and Samsung, many multinationals are betting that soon everyone will wear a device like these in one form or another, even in the fabric of their shirt. The last to arrive is the last one I expected, specially since they seem to have done it so well: Microsoft, with its “Band”, which not only provides connection from iOS devices, Android, or Windows Mobile of course, but also has advanced sensors like constant pulse reading or GPS.

MS Band

This is getting interesting!