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Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense: Where am I coming from?
A personal primer from Peter...
This new column is about being a participant in an increasingly digital life. It is about coping with, understanding and taking advantage of change, getting a 'heads up' on a world that is increasingly fast, non-linear and confusing. It is about running at a pace defined by a combination of technological and market forces, with little time to rest or contemplate, and a very short time to act if you are to profit (in the broadest definition of the word).

The basis of this series is a lifetime of real 'hands-on' experience in a technologically fuelled economy - and it is for people engaged in business and the workplace at all levels, and with the widest range of skills. But it isn't a lifebelt - the purpose is to render the complex simple and the incomprehensible clear - or at least less complex and clearer, hopefully!

Most people tend to focus on possessions and riches, and associate the word wealth with money. For me there is far more to it. Money is certainly important as the lubricant of trade and commerce, an enabler of creativity and the mechanism we employ to measure success and economies. However, our species is on a journey on Spaceship Earth with a mission to go explore, discover and change at a pace faster than our gene-based evolution would naturally dictate. There is a wider context!

Rightly or wrongly we invented money as a token mechanism to free up trade beyond barter. More recently that money has transmuted to bits, mere numbers in databases that reflect our wealth or potential wealth, but fail to fully define or quantify it. However, the crudity of our concepts of money, economics and wealth, often sees us losing sight of what we really value and what is really important.

Most people associate the word technology with the pain and anguish of stuff that doesn't work. But without it we would all be dead - no technology, no nothing. Technology is like some celestial ratchet - it goes one way, and we can never go back without paying some terrible price. We cannot support six billion people on this spaceship without technology.

Just switch off the telecoms network alone and in a trice there would be no electric power, clean water, sewage disposal, transport and logistics. Within a month populations would be starving and within a year an estimated three billion people would be dead.

But this ain't the core or even most critical issue. We have engineered our infrastructures and systems well and they are largely safe, secure and resilient. It is that PC, laptop, mobile phone and everyday software that suddenly decides to go pear-shaped that convinces us technology is a pain. And only a few decades ago the same was true of the automobile, radio and TV. With IT we are really talking relative technological immaturity coupled with the fastest rate of adoption and change ever experienced by our societies.

I have been fortunate to lead a life engaged in the creation of wealth spanning education (including mine and others) through to breakthrough technologies, new business models and building new companies. I have also had the good fortune to meet and work with some of the leading scientists, engineers, technologists and philosophers of the age, and of necessity I have had to live at the leading edge, learn fast and decide on the hoof in real time - or go under.

Did I get it all right? Certainly not! Did I succeed in creating wealth and learn a lot? Oh yes! Am I still learning and thirsty for more? For sure! Would I do it all again? If only! And now my purpose is to pass on as many of the key experiences and observations as possible.

To realise this you have on your screen the start of a regular weekly series organised in convenient bytes - a gateway to even more experiences.

But before we get underway I would just ask you to join me in considering what we know we don't know. Everyday there are words that we use as if we know what they mean. We take action and make decisions as if we had an adequate description, definition, quantification and measure. Here is my short list of the five most important words that we do not understand: life, intelligence, complexity, scalability and value. What is yours?

Do enjoy the series - and please ping me with any observations, comments and criticisms. These I will act on, reply to and add to a FAQ section to be included later on this website.