Look up. And update expectations.

What do you want out of 2022? Whether you are a scientist or an artist, if another world is possible beyond the bleak projections, are there spells we can cast right now? Because I think so.

Photo by Hao Wen on Unsplash


Has waking up in another year in the singularity left you a little flat?

If an elderly aunt left you a little flat, say in Eastbourne, right now you might think of simply moving into it for a spell and staring at the sea for a few hours a day. Very nice idea.

But, as our third year of pandemic dawns, if you find yourself isolating anew with ennui or just thinking about how to re-align your energies with work, you can thank Covid and all the market challenges to your business for sparing you going to the Consumer Electronics Show this year – tempting as shopping for your next physical avatar might seem from the garage.

If you’re half a futurey thinker, you’ll know how CES likes to excitedly flatten everything into a sellable techverse to drain the life out of more culturally complex blood and leaf views of the world and make sure you’re still signed up to the techbro cult. Fight me. But this year, Nima Zeighami spares you having to turn up or even metamobilize yourself around the conference exhibition in Vegas by smash-cutting straight to a handy thread of “every ridiculous usage of metaverse” he’s already seen there himself.

Given that I have never attended CES, my expectations of it are set interestingly low. And you haven’t visited 2022 before, so how low are yours set for that?

Y’might wanna revise them up.


The Meta outside is frightening.


However Adam McKay’s Don’t look up made you feel, if you watched it, disaster on a collision course is a reality no one wants to wake up to. But the killer asteroid sledgehammer in our lived story together is no act of God. It’s a mental projection manifesting. And maybe it’s doing more sucking in than slamming in.

Maybe we’re really facing a black hole.

If you caught my little Momo Christmas lecture, Is Generation X about to discover what its name stands for, you might recall that I mention the idea that Ray Kurzweil’s exploration of The Singularity might be more of an era than a moment in a server. Namely, our era. It was Vernor Vinge, scifi author, who really coined the term, somewhere in light of something supposedly said by John von Neumann – but RK famously fleshed out the law of accelerating returns, in which Moore’s Law of computer processing power and various other modern societal factors combine into an apparent speeding up and speeding up of all technological progress.

A speeding up going somewhere very massively transitional to the idea of simply being human.



Interesting that Vinge and Kurzweil were writing such things at just about the same time Generation X was being written by Douglas Coupland because all this to me feels like some great imagination barrier to our hopes for the human future. Fueled as it all is by the great sucker punch of our prevailing economics. Don’t look up, at best feel lost and lose yourself in more of it.

Happy new year.

Now, ordinary sensible people like you, but without your dazzling richness of futurism thought, don’t think about The Singularity, let’s not be academic and silly. But, just like a black hole, it’s sort of lurking there unseen somewhere in our collective nihilistic psyche, exerting queasying influence. Representing all that is too much to process for us – which is kinda Ray’s point, chimps – especially in an era of insurmountable seeming crisis. Crisis that we forget is ultimately cultural.

How DO we change this story we still think we are in? It preoccupies me.

While you’re saving money to buy a SpaceX ticket to experiencing your own Overview Effect, good news just in from the Coping With Now desk: Your expectations make a difference.


David Robson’s new book, The Expectation Effect suggests there’s a bit of science, or at least data gathered, to support the idea that humans can manifest what they look forward to. In his review of the book, Oliver Burkeman says: “Robson’s central point is that the expectation effect isn’t an amusing psychological quirk, but a fundamental aspect of our interactions with reality.”

“We defensive pessimists could do with remembering that sometimes things do actually turn out really well – especially if you expect them to.”

Call it placebo or cognitive behavioural self trickery, the way you see the world does seem to sort of come out. Even when the whole system is gamed against you. And those ways of seeing come from some personal blend of iris-level, skin-deep and way-deeper than that within us.

This obviously may seem like another bulletin from Conversations between people with no real problems. But even getting out of bed each day starts with the damn fool idea that you should have a go, and what would happen if you didn’t?

What might happen if you chose to look up? And see differently?


UNSEE THE FUTURE – EP29: Experience, part 1 >

Catch up on Momo’s look at the whole idea of the metaverse, before we were all using the term.


The Singularity is an era. Or an opera.


While tech corporate giants are hoping to sell us a consumer escape into The Metaverse, the rather deeper glimmers of a nacent metamodernism might feel at first like a return to spells and dragons if you’re a rooted impirical modernist catching first whiffs of it. But without getting into what might be emerging from this new primeval cyclone, it is at least true that there are psychological practices that can do an awful lot to reshape the world around us as we all gawp at the literal tunnelling clouds.

Practices very practically worked with by artists every day.

Embodiment, testing, ways of seeing… it’s not wizardry in a dark ages sense. It’s the everyday human magic of manifesting things into the universe. Creativity. When we can be arsed.

Maybe The Expectation Effect is another useful narrative trick for reconsidering the story you think you’re in this year, and if you do you want to change that story? I would say: Think. Like. An. Artist. And think of the world you want to project.

And maybe that’s a way I can help.


Whether you are a technical specialist or a creative, starting next month, each Friday morning you can dip into a new chapter from my forthcoming book – Unsee The Future: Think like an artist and change the world. I’ll be explaining what this practically might mean for different roles in an era of crisis – a historic period we’re all trying to live and work through which, I believe, needs such thinking more than it needs anything else.

Plus, in a forthcoming new podcast series in tandem with it I’ll be sharing more about just how possible different worlds are in the teeth of our slowly collapsing expectations. I’ll be meeting solarpunks, artists and changemakers already re-imagining the stories we think we’re in.


Manifest what you want to see in the world. I hope to make it my new lodestar. Become a Momo:amigo and subscribe to follow my explorations of ideas, people and music – and together let’s learn how to encourage the more hopeful human tomorrow.

BECOME A MOMO AMIGO – sign up for the regular Unsee The Future mailers:



The seven rules of The Metaverse >

Take a look at Tony Parisi’s handy overview of what we’re really talking about.


Wake me up when we reach Peak Asleep.

We as a generation can do most things in bed now. So what can the poor, hard working era of crisis do to get more of us out of it?

Photo by Mulyadi on Unsplash


Here’s an easy question, and it will make you chuckle in its innocence:

If the climate crisis appears to be signalling the radical die back of life systems on Earth that are keeping us alive, thanks to the consequences of late stage capitalist economics, why are we mostly still living like “consumers” trying to really ram home the results?

See? Naw. I’m like an adorable baby activist.

Go on, here’s an almost-as-easy one to pin on your fridge, while we’re doing this:

If Mark Zuckerberg’s launch of Meta signals a grim double-down from the tech giants hoping to shackle our lives and data to their platforms and devices, jacked in everywhere to their matrix, why are we all still on Facebook?

Oh, me, eh? Bless me.

So one more, weary parent:

If, here in the UK, the police bill signals a move to criminalise peaceful protest and stimulate an atmosphere of fear around it, why aren’t we filling the streets to stop it? While some of us cheer on lion-hearted, hooded anti-vax men bravely breaking into Christmas markets in Luxembourg for gluvine, why aren’t all of us across the political spectrum not scaring the shite out of the current British government for daring to begin outlawing free speech?

You haven’t got time to answer fatuous simpleton pressingly obvious questions no one else is bothering to answer, I know. You’re a grown up. Too busy wishing you could go back to bed.

It might be more precise to simply ask: What gets us out of bed?

Besides the endless task of keeping the wheels on something vital that’s falling apart.

I think I’d rather put that question like this:

“If not the relentless era of crisis, what are you currently plugging your passion into?”





Tina Fey said that trying to write satirical comedy right now is like tiptoeing through a minefield. It’s making even big hitters timid. Which is interesting, since audiences seem to give stand-ups the most freedom to say what they like.

But what is funny right now? And what will any majority of us hear?

Next week, as an artist, I am sharing a little livestream event that will feature a brand new music video. One which the lovely first lady of Momo has judged insightfully with the words: “As funny as frightening.”


As part of a bigger creative project, the new single references a theme of science fiction. But really expresses an idea so common, so fundamental to our shared culture, it is almost unifying in the way we accept it.

In sharing what that is, I will first share a talk. In which I wonder just what new idea might help galvanise more of us to plug in our passion to the problems we’re facing. For all the mico niches marshalling and stirring our feelings in passionate dividing groups around the disaffected globalised world, is there a simple perspective that could redefine the most of us feeling in the middle? Just trying to live our ordinary lives. Exhausted. Is there a new idea of us that could finally light up new futures in our imaginations?

An idea that might help more of us unjack and finally plug in?

Don’t feel you have to get out of bed for it. But I’ll be taking questions.

And asking one big one.

LIVE EVENT: Thursday December 16 2021 18:00 GMT >

Sustainability: The greatest innovation opportunity in 100 years?

Innovation. Yawn. Wake me when something new actually happens, amirite? Except, is the era of crisis slightly demanding a lot of it? Like, really it – green-revolution level it. So is it the perfect time for ‘ordinary’ businesses to level up what we even think the word means?

All images ©Carswell Gould 2021


The morning I was due to host a session for VentureFest South’s Festival of Innovation 2021 I cheekily tweeted that, secretly, no one really wants innovation, despite everyone name-dropping it at business conferences for decades, because it means changing one’s worldview and everyone’s faffing processes.

To which passionate mate Richard from Feria Urbanism replied that we don’t just not really honestly want it, we don’t even need it.

“We really don’t need innovation” he said. “The answers are already all around us. This isn’t nostalgia or an opposition to industrialisation, automation or computerisation. Just that advanced stage capitalism requires “innovation” for continued growth and that continued growth tends to be driven by a continued consumption of resources that we cannot sustain.”


I told him I would open the session with this as a quote. He asked for royalties, late-stage capitalist that he is. But he concluded with the point I had in my mind also:

“How we define innovation is critical here. Who creates that definition and why? What forces influence of that definition?”

Momo, Chris, Paul and Matt listen to Petra at VFS21. Image ©Carswell Gould 2021

Breaking barriers.

If there’s one phrase that I seem to have heard a lot lately, it is “breaking out of silos.” And a more regenerative view of the future will certainly demand a much more popular understanding of how inter-connected life on Earth truly is. But more than this, encouraging sustainability will mean actively breaking through cultural walls to learn each other’s sector languages and blend those perspectives. Stop just talking to your own people.

With a key sponsor of VFS21 being The UK’s Defence, Science & Technology Lab (DSTL), when Matt Chinn from the organisation stood up and said: “Hey, gang, I have a £1billion to spend – bring me your ideas” you could hear a lot of nice peace-loving people around the hall flinching and wondering how to break into the Ministry of Defence.

Breaking through old ways of doing things, old habits, is a culture change challenge. And indeed the primary problem facing our era of crisis, arguably, is economic culture – the way we value everything, like goggles we see the world through.

Innovation does indeed seem tied to our existing ideas of business success – namely “growth”.

But a reality check before we even shout “climate crisis!” may be this: 99% of all businesses in the UK are supposedly SMEs. Small. Local. ..Is this a clue to how we might innovate for sustainability? Us ordinary Fortune 8 billion lot.


Chris shares at VFS21. Image ©Carswell Gould 2021 Paul shares at VFS21. Image ©Carswell Gould 2021


Juxtaposing passions.

Our panel brought together different specialist perspectives on potential human futures, from bio research, to data, energy and cleantech community building. Some interesting key words fell out of our discussion, after each guest had presented their starting point, from their work.

Community and ownership, for example. And the reality that all business, all new ideas, all data have emotional contexts.

“How do you get people to change their mind?” asked Chris, from Knownow. “Storytelling. We love stories, we think in pictures, Telling compelling stories that give people hope, give them vision, let the cogs go and let them be innovative – everyone can be innovative. You don’t have to have a particular qualification, you just have to have imagination.”


While bringing a data perspective to sustainability, Chris is bang on for me there, obviously – understanding that emotional context we’re really doing everything in. And how useful, therefore, is the narrative principle of emotional truth, something we’re all instinctively keeping an ear out for everywhere.

It’s clear that you and I get passionate when we feel something affects us. When we own it. So how do we engender ownership?

Collaboration – that’s the invitation of Venture Fest, at its heart. Collaboration solves problems but crucially for a time of crisis it also builds communities.

“I think it’s about listening. Listening to people. “ said Petra from the DSTL. “What really are the drivers of our behaviours?”

The resulting conversation was a rich one to spend some time with, so I recommend you do.

Amid a flurry of truly inspiring innovations happening all over society as the green revolution begins to flower, is the real opportunity of sustainability the chance to unlock gaps between people like never before?

Is this how we get to solve human planet problems we’ve not managed to before now? And is this why “thinking global” has to “act local”?

Watch the session: Sustainability: The greatest innovation opportunity in 100 years? >



Discover VentureFest South >

With sincere thanks to my guests:

Petra Oyston >

Technical Fellow within the Chemical, Biological and Radiological Division of Dstl

Chris Cooper >

CTO, KnowNow Information

Paul Cole >

Founder, powerQuad

Matthew Pullinger >

Industry Liaison Officer – Low Carbon Technologies at GreentechSouth

Solarpunk: Is it time we dared to believe?


An endless stream of disaster stories keeps us busy. Eternally. And it’s robbed us of faith in any good shared futures. But could we yet light a candle for something better than a new Utopia?


I know. We can’t afford to dream. It’s not what you have time for on the front line. Which I think we’re all on, mentally, in a networked society like ours. Which means we’re all feeling a. lot.

Hearing from a friend in Delhi these past two days brought home the realism of the images from India across our news feeds. He works in a hospital there and simply confirmed how fiercely the Covid emergency is overwhelming care capacity. He thinks infection and death rates are way higher than the official terrible figures. But it was his tone, in simple text, that brought us up short, feeling it from him. He sounded hopeless. Not out. But soul-drained.

Do you feel soul-drained? Whether you’re practical front line or not. As a nurse, doctor, teacher, police officer, how could you not be? But as an events organiser, a performer, an artist? You’ve had your own kind of helpless for 14 months. And if you work in local government, trying to administer local life at all possible scales with dwindling public investment in what you do? I can’t imagine the grind, hidden away. Now talk to me as a social message board moderator. How is your faith in humanity?

And this is all before you or loved ones have actually experienced Covid.

And all this is just Covid. You know enough about the climate crisis to not want to look at it.

But can we live like this? And are we supposed to? What do you imagine a better world actually looking like?

If you feel you daren’t even talk this way, I feel the same. Especially because I am no decent activist. I’m no rebel. I’m too reasonable and to easily part of the sleeping problem.

But is there a habitual reason you and I find it impossible to squarely, boldly picture a more hopeful human tomorrow? One that’s got little to do with realism after all?

And is there a practical alternative to the cyberpunk dystopia we’re all just accepting as inevitable? Is corporate techno-global non-democratic misery all that lies ahead? Deeper addictions, deeper sleeps, deeper fears, worse abuses?

Or dare we believe another world IS possible?

If we can picture it?

In my special new episode of Unsee The Future, I look at a topic that I’ve been ruminating on for a couple of years. And I wonder if it’s a way of seeing the future that could change everything.

Is it an art movement, an environmental movement, a political movement? All of them and something beyond. The reason I think it could be the beginnings of a whole new story of us is that it isn’t a new Utopia at long last – it’s something better.

I think it’s time we all introduced ourselves to Solarpunk.

It could change the way you put faith in the human future. By realising that – duh! – faith, like confidence, is built by doing.

Unsee The Future EP31: Solarpunk. This is very definitely just a beginning.



Beats working – can future tech learn a lot from how music is wired?


Is there a corner of the technology sector that has been taking everyone else to school without sounding off about it?




This Easter weekend don’t feel bad about sugar. It’s been nature’s honey trap for millions of years – it’s exactly how the bees do it, tempted in with sweet sweet nectar to fill their boots and spread the flower love. You’re wired to want it.

Just like you’re wired to want what tech is seducing you with. If only it was to help life bloom.

There is a view of technology as one of the very roots of our age of crisis. It’s my view. Of a dominant culture of tech as we mostly have to work with it. Only, musicians have been working with it rather differently, and for a long time.

Which it’s taken me, a synth nerd, a long time to realise could teach the world to sing very differently, as we try to picture human tech futures.


Uncosmic Highs

You might have camped outside the Applestore in your time, but I think what we’re all judging you on there, as we join you in the queue, is that you’re hooked on the eternal promise of “better” and the dirty addictive hit of shiny and new. Which you know. I’d argue, as I trample you through the doors, that we’re a globalised culture of addicts to a very unhealthy view of the world – a robot world view, built by a kind of cult of engineering. Not of flower power.

But while our shared economics might have been driven significantly by the push to make and improve and throw away products with no instincts to biological, social or emotional contexts, music technology developers have quietly made some remarkable examples of how we COULD do it.

Matt Ballentine asked me to appear on the WB40 Podcast this week, and tempted me with this idea. One I’d not thought about at all before: “How did the big music technology companies get everyone to sign on to the development of MIDI? And why has it lasted so well?

Musical Instrument Digital Interface sounded like the 1980s were going to finally kill music. Many classically trained musicians and a lot of guitarists thought so at the time and had car stickers to prove it. Even I, as a teenager discovering I that I felt oddly drawn to those already creepy sounding 70s synth hero records that were saturated with the arpeggios of ancient-seeming modular systems and the woody tape glitch of echo boxes and Melotrons – even I thought the new sixteen-channel five-pin sync system seemed just too reductive and plastic and soulless to do much for wild musical creativity.

But MIDI is now essentially forty year old technology. And still connects products by all the world’s manufacturers so that gear heads can run hugely complex live set ups and all finish on the same streamer cannon pop.

This is not how Apple does it. How Microsoft does it. TV manufacturers might share HDMI leads but they certainly don’t share app platforms for watching the shows made by different content studios. But all the soft and hard music technology names expect you to mix up everyone’s products and get creative.

How did they do it? 

I’d say forget thinking like tech or business. Look at the wider human context the work is being developed in.


Part 2

Are you selling a product or creating an experience? As the history of music tech often shows, good design thinking can’t help but foster collaboration, because it taps into the same thing as any storytelling – shared emotional context.


It’s hard to see much difference between the nerdy, open-minded enthusiasm of some computer giant founders in the late 60s and that of music pioneers at the time. There are always big corporations setting standards and scrappy young upstarts blindsiding them by spotting a passionate opportunity, and passions were running high in the summers of late modernism, dreaming of new social, environmental and technological freedoms. But maybe there is one key difference in the experiences these two market groups created. A musical instrument is made to make music. Computing tech is made to do a million other practical things as well.

Music is a transportive, emotional, ineffable encounter with your feelings. Whatever the theory, practice, coding or soldering that enables your fingers to make sound, the point of all of that is to lift the soul or jump start the imagination. It’s not project management software.

After Covid, millions of us are longing for the experience of sharing music in a big crowd again, because it can – when it works – make group experience memories that shape part of your identity. When you’re using music tech to actually make that music with other people, it can help you feel born to do it. It adds up to a flow that can’t be measured by the sum of its parts. At least up until Steve’s solo.

Now, at this point you might rightly be deeply cynical about the music business, most passionately if you’ve ever been part of it probably – “one big ponzy scheme” as Matt reported a 70s music person saying to him once, off air on last week’s WB40 podcast that sparked all this. But as I heard Factory Records legend Tony Wilson say directly: “People think industry execs go to work for the money and musicians go to work to live near the art. Let me tell you, in my experience it’s more often the other way around.”

I wonder if this was much of the energy driving Ikutaro Kakehashi – founder of Roland, and perhaps the key instigator of the development of resiliently effective universal synchronisation system MIDI.

He was not musically trained, and like me had a passion for music anyway. But I also can’t help wondering about his even deeper emotional context, as to why he pushed to make musical instruments that would enable millions of people to take part in creation – and an open source technical interface to power it.


Making connections.

Young Ikutaro’s parents both died of disease when he was young. Tuberculosis. Raised by grandparents, exploring an interest in electrical engineering during much of his childhood, his home was destroyed by allied bombing during the war. He failed to get into university on health grounds and moved to a new city to open a clock repair shop. Moving back to Osaka to try for university again he experienced the city’s mass food shortage and caught TB himself, finding himself in a sanitarium for years and eventually feeling improved health thanks to clinical tests of a new drug effectively donated to him for trial. Loving radio, that evocative combination of music and engineering and far off places, and fixing home organs on the side, at 28, so the story goes, he opened a new store, determined to develop the ideal electronic musical instrument.

If you want to know why, in 1980, Kakehashi approached various instrument makers to help him work up a new interface for electronic instruments – thankfully including Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits, based across the Pacific in San Francisco – and how he convinced the bosses of Kawai, Yamaha and Korg to join in, I think it seems a bit clearer in his personal context: The lack of shared standards was not only holding back business technically but keeping out a lot of potential new music makers. Untrained, technically excluded, passionate artists in waiting. Who just might find common creative language in future facing music, no matter where in the world they were from.

After co-launching MIDI by hooking up a Roland JP-6 with a supposed rival Sequential Prophet 600, with Smith, to gasps at NAMM 1983, his products under Roland and Boss went on to define a new era of inclusive music making and, with MIDI, essentially unlocked epic worlds of creativity to my generation of unschooled dreamers.

Big business finds it eternally hard to stay collegiate, of course. Yamaha bought Dave Smith’s iconic Sequential company in 1989 and shut it down. But twenty five years later, it was an elderly Ikutaro Kakehashi who convinced the technology giant to simply give the name back to Smith to bring back the legendary brand of the Prophet V. Allegedly saying: “I feel that it’s important to get rid of unnecessary conflict among electronic musical instrument companies. That is exactly the spirit of MIDI.”

Imagine if Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google… name them all, acted like this from the centre.


Part 3

Right to repair isn’t even a thing in most tech on Earth in 2021, yet music tech seems to go way beyond it – to cherishing technical heritage as a generationally relevant relationship. And, oh yeah, most music tech still just works.



Music has often been at the cultural forefront. Giving expression to social and technical advances alike. Music artists might suffer under streaming valuations today but the internet has also freed them from the need for a traditional record label for reach. And in doing so, plenty of them have demonstrated better marketing knowledge than most businesses – find your niche and love them back. Enough to make real community, listening to each other.

Relationships are about truth, just like storytelling – which music is. Bedroom sessions too now make the musical world go round and micro businesses thrive. Blockchain relationships are already re-evaluating the way artists define their work, with more of them turning pieces into NFTs as objects of value more like exhibits in a gallery. As well as amazing festival experiences and soundtracks to our formative years.

All this may be fundamentally tech enabled, and it might make good business. But it’s driven by more richly connected human rhythms than a less emotionally nutritious lust for shiny.

And there’s one other decidedly Not Typical Tech expression of the music tech scene I find interesting. The right to repair, and beyond that – passion for old kit as living icons.

It’s interesting as I reflect that the synth scene, of which I am instinctively a part, absolutely adores “vintage” gear. And not as some fashion fad, but as a timeless love of particular instrumentation. The only weird fashion blip towards synths in the past nearly sixty years of their existence was the last few years of the 1980s when the technology of making noises took a conspicuous digital shift and had musos selling analogue beasts with huge sounds and playful physical interfaces for peanuts in exchange for fiddly little black rack-mounts with a tiny LCDs and a line of thin black buttons. It’s when I could afford to buy my first ever synthesiser – the blessed Moog Liberation. Such junkstore prices didn’t last long.

Today, though all music production can be done on the drive of a laptop, synth nerds half my age love connecting keyboards with big knobs to A-frames of beat boxes and physical sequencers so they can play easily and expressively. And they’ll retrofit old machines with MIDI to be able to use the originals as well as the beautiful new machines made in their image.

As deliberately artificial as electronic music delights in sounding, there is something fundamentally human to be learned by other tech developers from this.

Of course, as a last point I’d add one thing. If you’re paying attention here, you’ll realise. I’m talking about all this in the context of centuries of western music making. A technological codification of tone developed over a thousand years that robot thinking today can easily appreciate – 12 notes in a scale, fixed tuning, recognised time signatures. What about all the musical traditions OUTSIDE this, going back thousands of years before Pope Gregory’s music school, Guido D’Arezzo’s notation, or the orchestrations of the European Enlightenment?

NOW you might be asking a good future technology question. A question asked, incidentally, by some music technology artists 90 years ago.

How can we design technology that reflects the human art instinct for connection, community, testimony, continuity? And go to all the effort of manufacturing tech products that tempt us with the sugar-rush of being real pollinators, not consumers?



Matt, Chris and I ride through a stone/beats-skipping history of music from Pythagoras and tetrachords to the TR808 and multi-timbral polyphony, before wondering why music tech might be a bit different to the rest of the the gear sector.