Mirror, mirror, on the wall… …should this guy get bail or not? #46 #cong23 #reality


My contention is that even though AI (Generative AI) can’t draw a realistic hand to save its life, it is a powerful window into a reality we might otherwise not see.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. AI is not just a bad renderer of human hands.
  2. AI is a mirror that shows us truths we might not want to see, but should.
  3. The material we use to train AI is a fair representation of ourselves. And the cold, unbiased eye of AI is the perfect way to see the truths contained in it.
  4. AI can show you the truth, but it’s up to you to do something about it.

About Richard Ryan

I have worked in Advertising for approximately 30 years. I am a copywriter, which means I wrote the very words that made you choose that specific box of cornflakes, or cellphone plan or midrange server.

I work in a small, full-service ad agency in Brooklyn NY, called Something Different. What actually makes us something different is we solve your business problems with smart, plain-spoken, deeply human ideas. It what every agency should do, but sadly doesn’t.

I live in New Jersey, where I enjoy having four distinct seasons.

Contacting Richard Ryan

You can check out Richard’s personal site, and the Something Different Agency or send him an email.

By Richard Ryan

We’ve all sniggered at the oddly-webbed, six-fingered hands that AI draws for us. Or laughed at ChatGPT when it tried to gaslight a New York Times reporter and convince him to leave his wife for the program. And then there’s the Pepperoni Hug Spot commercial.

But don’t let that sideshow fool you.

I think AI is a powerful window into our reality. Or, to be more precise, a mirror. A mirror that shows us truths we might not want to see, but should.

Consider how Generative or Creative AI works. We feed it a set of things. The more the better. Things we write, draw and create. Images. Books. Letters. Scientific papers. Greek poetry. Whatever we want. And it absorbs them all. Then, using its super complicated algorithms, it “learns” what we’re showing it. It sees the patterns in what we’ve done. And then tries to recreate it. By guessing. Based on what it saw. It’s a hugely powerful trick. This way it can learn to code. Or converse in Chinese. Or if we give it millions of mammograms and medical data it can learn to spot breast cancers with uncanny accuracy

You could argue that it doesn’t actually understand anything. It’s not filtered or underpinned by emotion or beliefs or context. It just spits back the reality of what it sees.

So to my point. What does it see? Well, it was recently reported that when you ask Midjourney (which is a picture-generating AI) to create pictures of doctors, what it sends back are images of white men.

Possibly not what you’d expect, but it’s reflecting back what it has seen. It’s the truth.

What do those images tell us about our reality? Or about opportunity? Or about whether we really value diversity?

Admittedly, although it’s a thought-provoking fact, those are just pictures. No harm done. But that’s not always the case.

I said AI has taught itself to read mammograms. It’s way better and much faster than humans. It’s so good, doctors don’t quite understand what it’s seeing, or how it does it, but it has saved people’s lives. The problem is, while it’s very good at spotting cancers in white women, it’s not so good at spotting breast cancers in people of color.

That also teaches us something about our reality.

Because – just as with the doctor pictures – the data sets we’re using to train it are from real life, taken from a health care system that is biased and skewed.

The reality our AI is reflecting back at us is a reality where we don’t treat people equally. We treat some people worse.

That’s what the mirror is showing us.

In March of this year a judge in India couldn’t decide whether to grant bail for a murder suspect so he just asked ChatGPT to give him the answer. Chat GPT said the guy didn’t deserve bail because the program considered him “a danger to the community and a flight risk.” So the judge said fair enough and sent him back to jail.

Of course that’s a story of one lazy judge. That behavior would never become institutionalized, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, it could.

Right now, if you’re booked into jail in New Jersey, the judge when he’s deciding whether to send you to jail or not, has a small black box that uses risk-assessment algorithms to help him make his decision. Not quite autonomous. At least not yet. But when that AI does come on line, what data sets will be used to teach it? Whichever they are, they won’t be equitable. The data sets that comprise all the information on the US incarceration system were built up over centuries of hugely racist government policies.

So the decisions that AI will return – either go to jail or go home – will reflect and reinforce a reality that isn’t remotely fair.

That won’t be a few harmless pictures of white doctors, that’ll be someone’s life.

So the next time your AI doesn’t send you back quite what you’re expecting, don’t blame it for not getting reality right. Consider that, in its unvarnished, unemotional way, it may be getting reality exactly right.

Then, once we see that reality, consider what we want to do about it.

Can we build healing and harmonising homes? #47 #cong23 #reality


Embarking on the quest to construct homes that blend with nature and enhance well-being, this research explores the intersections of natural world, neuroscience, and integral sustainable design. From mimicking nature’s harmony to understanding the neural responses to design elements, the journey looks to being pull together patterns that can be used for creating nurturing environments. Integral sustainable design emerges as the guiding principle, emphasizing a holistic approach that considers ecological, social, and economic aspects. Can we set the foundations for healing and harmoinsing homes for the generations that follow?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Nature as a Blueprint: Drawing inspiration from nature’s wisdom, emerges as a fundamental principle in sustainable design.
  2. Mind-Body Design Harmony: Recognising the impact of design on mental health and well-being. The impacts of design go beyond the physical space into subtle realm.
  3. Holistic Sustainability: Integral sustainable design provides a comprehensive framework, considering environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Balancing ecological sustainability with social and economic viability is crucial in creating homes that positively impact individuals and communities.
  4. Leveraging a cross-disciplinary approach in design amalgamates diverse expertise for comprehensive problem-solving. Coupled with community involvement, it offers an inclusive and informed approach to community development.

About Aimee Hartshorn

Aimee is the Founder and Creative Director of Anima Lunar Collective, an interior design practice. Growing up on a farm in Ireland, Aimee was blessed to be surrounded by the beautiful natural landscape from a young age. Born into a family of builders and makers, she was immersed in an environment that nurtured her personal passion for design and craftsmanship. Aimee’s enthusiasm for creating beauty in the world truly blossomed as she entered the world of design in her late teens, following her curiosity and passion. Her work has taken her around the world, where she has visited design exhibitions, specialist suppliers, and artisans.

Always curious, Aimee continues to explore the world, gaining invaluable knowledge about materials, cultures, crafts, and community living. As she has grown, so has her interest in understanding the world. She deeply cares about how design can positively nurture growth and development for our evolutionary path. Aimee had the unique experience of being part of ‘Generating Transformative Change,’ a course that brings together thought leaders looking to make a positive impact in the world.

Contacting Aimee Hartshorn:

You can check out Aimee’s work on her website, connect with her on Instagram or send her an email.

By Aimee Hartshorn

Creating healing and harmonising homes represents a multifaceted challenge that requires an interdisciplinary approach, drawing insights from biomicry, neuroscience, and integral sustainable design. This research delves into the exploration of whether it is feasible to construct living spaces that contribute positively to occupants’ well-being, emphasizing the interplay between design, nature, and human physiology.

Biomicry, as a guiding principle, suggests that we can find sustainable solutions and design inspiration in nature’s intricate systems. By mimicking the inherent harmony found in ecosystems, the goal is to create homes that seamlessly integrate with the natural world. This approach emphasizes sustainability and ecological balance, recognizing the potential of nature-inspired design to positively impact human health.

Neuroscience, on the other hand, provides valuable insights into how the human brain responds to the built environment. It acknowledges the profound connection between our surroundings and mental well-being. By understanding the neural responses to various design elements, we can tailor residential spaces to promote a sense of calm, reduce stress, and enhance overall mental health. Elements such as natural light, greenery, and ergonomic design are explored to create environments that resonate positively with occupants.

Integral sustainable design serves as the overarching framework, weaving together various dimensions of sustainability – environmental, social, and economic. It acknowledges that a truly harmonising home should not only be ecologically sustainable but also socially and economically viable. This holistic approach considers the long-term impact of design decisions on both individuals and communities, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all aspects of sustainability.

The exploration of these concepts has led to a series of interviews with experts in diverse fields, including architecture, interior design, and neuroscience. Through these conversations, the researcher seeks to understand the practical implications and challenges associated with implementing healing and harmonising design principles in residential projects.

Experts unanimously acknowledge the significance of nature in sustainable design, emphasizing the need to learn more from nature’s resilience and efficiency. Integrating natural elements, Biophilla and using sustainable materials, emerges as a promising avenue for creating homes that align with the principles of the natural world.

From a neuroscientific perspective, experts highlight the importance of sensory experiences in design. Natural light, ventilation, and views of greenery are identified as key contributors to occupant well-being. The interviews underscore the idea that a harmonising home should engage all the senses, creating a nurturing environment that promotes both physical and mental health.

Integral sustainable design principles means, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and balanced approach. The experts stress that sustainable homes should not only minimize environmental impact but also contribute positively to the community, fostering social well-being and economic resilience.

However, challenges emerge, particularly in the realm of interdisciplinary collaboration and implementation. Experts discuss the inherent silos within different disciplines and industries, making it challenging to bring diverse professionals together for holistic projects. Overcoming this requires a shift in mindset and the development of collaborative frameworks that encourage the exchange of ideas and expertise.

Cost considerations also loom large, with experts acknowledging that sustainable and harmonising design often comes at a higher initial expense. Innovative financing models and incentives are suggested as potential solutions to offset these costs and encourage broader adoption.

Regulatory and policy barriers pose additional challenges. Experts highlight the need for supportive regulations that incentivize sustainable practices and penalise unsustainable ones. Overcoming resistance to change within the industry is identified as a crucial aspect, requiring education and advocacy for the benefits of healing and harmonising design.

Looking ahead, the research aims to contribute to the growing body of knowledge in residential design. By examining the intersections of biomicry, neuroscience, and integral sustainable design, it seeks to provide insights into creating homes that not only minimize their ecological footprint but actively contribute to the well-being of those who inhabit them.

Reality has Become Fuzzy #45 #cong23 #reality


My understanding of what is real and what constitutes reality seems to be constantly shifting these days… reality is getting fuzzy and I’m just learning how to deal.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Reality no longer means what I think it means.
  2. I think I’m going to have to deal with life being a little more fuzzy

About Clare Dillon:

Clare loves Congregation, and the discussions she has there. She is currently researching how developers can better collaborate to create and maintain software. She works with InnerSource and open source communities on the side.  She’s very sorry her submission came so late this year.

Contacting Clare Dillon:

You can connect with Clare on LinkedIn or send her an email.

By Clare Dillon

One of my favourite movies is The Princess Bride. I often find the characters inhabiting my head when their words appear relevant. When I heard of this theme, I could hear Inigo Montoyo say “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”.


And fundamentally, I agree with Inigo. I used to think I knew what reality meant – but there have been so many times in the last few years where my perception of reality has been challenged, that at the moment, I think my understanding of the word is a little fuzzy.

Here is a list of just some of the times when my understanding of what “reality” is has been challenged…

  • Learning about quantum theory and entanglement and how a quantum system can exist in a combination of two or more possible states at the same time. Mind blowing.
  • Experiencing augmented reality for the first time with a Microsoft Hololens and “seeing” large mech invaders emerge from the wall of the room. As I started ducking and diving I had that peculiar experience of both knowing they were not real even as my body and mind was reacting like they were being attacked.
  • That time in Cong when I was introduced to the idea from James Joyce of “two thinks at a time” and “twosome twiminds.” That started me thinking about how two seemingly contradictory perspectives can be held as true at the same time.
  • Donald Trump becoming president. Who would’ve thunk that was possible when we saw him in Home Alone 2.
  • Thinking about just how “real” some artificial intelligence output seems.
  • Learning about all the cognitive biases at play in our minds that mean we rarely make decisions based on rational thinking. Realising just how little control we have about what we think in the world.
  • And that time, just a little while I ago, when I woke up from a particularly vivid dream of talking with my mother and believed, in that moment, that she was still alive and with us in this world….

My understanding of what is real and what constitutes reality seems to be constantly shifting these days…

After hearing there is a poetry jam once again at this Cong, here is a short poem ChatGPT came up with on the topic I quite like:

Reality is fuzzy, we are just going to have to learn how to deal

With the uncertainty and ambiguity that we often feel

Sometimes we think we know the truth, but then we find out we were wrong

Sometimes we see things differently, but then we have to get along

Reality is fuzzy, we are just going to have to learn how to cope

With the complexity and diversity that we often hope

To understand and appreciate, but then we face some challenges

To communicate and collaborate, but then we need some balances

Reality is fuzzy, we are just going to have to learn how to grow

With the creativity and curiosity that we often show

To explore and discover, but then we have to make some choices

To create and innovate, but then we have to use our voices

My Life Experience + Technology + Bravery = Inclusive Reality #44 #cong23 #reality


The reality for carers is that decisions are made by others and carer burnout is high. Self-directed care offers a new reality for putting people at the centre of their own lives. It’s complicated and challenging but transformational at individual and community level. Technology has a role to play to enable people to get back to living their best lives.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Lives are complex
  2. Carers are undervalued and over relied upon.
  3. Self directed supports offers hope.
  4. Bravery is required to make this a reality!

About Karen McCormick:

I am a mammy of 4 kids and married to George. We live in beautiful Inishowen.
I enjoy swimming in the sea as much as I can.
My lived experience of being a working carer has motivated me to now work for myself. I split my time three ways: I am founder of inCharge – enabling better self-directed care; I am lived experience engagement lead at IMPACT, the UK implementation centre for evidence in adult social care; I am a personal assistant employer and I manage my daughters personal budget.

I am looking forward to actually getting to Cong!

Contacting Karen McCormick:

You can reach me on email, LinkedIn  and X

By Karen McCormick

I wrote a submission for last year’s CongRegation and life circumstances deviated me from getting there.

A lovely wedding invitation was the initial detour on my 2022 journey to Cong but on the same morning of the wedding I had a mammogram – 8am, plenty of time to get home and get ready. Odd-looking cell formations showed up and I had a biopsy. So, in effect, I missed most of the wedding ceremony. Those of you who were in Cong last year will know it was on 26 November. This happens to be my mammy’s anniversary having passed away at a young age of 49, the age I am now. A sad reality for me but feeling very much connected to her that day. Every day.

I was sitting in the pub in my hometown in Donegal after the wedding ceremony that I mostly missed, waiting to go to the reception. I was feeling a bit fragile from the unexpected biopsy and my husband was getting me a glass of wine (doctor’s orders). I glanced up and there in the pub in my hometown of Moville was a fingerpost sign for Cong.

I can’t quite take it in, so I sent a pic to my friend Ailish as proof!

Now back to Reality.

The reality for people, like me with caring responsibilities, is life is much harder than it needs to be. Decisions are made by others about people not with people. Carers are burning out. We are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year. We can dress it up however we like but that’s the reality of it!
We decided to change the experience in terms of decision making for our daughter. We opted for a personal budget when she left secondary school rather than tradition disability day services on offer. Our goal was and is to put her at the centre of her own life, empowering her to have as much choice and control as possible.

This decision had big implications for us as a family.

My professional life took at twist.

I was now going down the path of becoming a personal assistant employer – a micro care provider.

The reality of self-directed supports for my daughter? Transformational!

She does regular things in our community supported by people chosen by her and who understand her evolving needs. The community impact is palpable. More inclusive, thoughtful and considerate. More aware.

The reality of me becoming an employer? How hard could it be! There would be lots of support, advice and guidance. This is international best practice after all.

There would be technology solution or system that I could buy? Right?


Lots of bits of solutions and lots of systems for service providers but none for people with care needs and their families. Families like us. So not only was I on the journey to becoming a micro care provider, I was researching to develop person centred technology. An entrepreneur!
I’m not a technologist. However, I have lived experience and a deep understanding of the problem I am working to solve. I naturally connect with empathy to other carers and people with disabilities. I suppose it’s the reality I have known for the 22 years of my daughters life so far. I also know that lives are complex as you will see from my opening paragraph. I have a skill in joining the dots or unpicking the complexity. I can understand it from many perspectives. Ultimately, strip it all back and it’s simple really. People supporting people.

I know that technology is not the panacea to self-directing supports. I do believe that with the right digital tools and supports, people can be less restricted and more free to live their lives as they see fit.

It also gives us the opportunity to store our personal story and care needs in one place, a place that we have access to and can choose who to share our data with. I see this is future proofing for my daughter. Information and data about her care needs, likes and preferences, schedule and people that are important to her. If anything should happen me, then others of our choosing will know what to do and how to approach it.

It’s not rocket science but it is a departure from how we traditionally organise care.

Bravery is needed to break down barriers and rebalance power. Changing the culture of authorities from a traditional systems focus of power and control to person centred approaches will be slow and difficult. It is possible to have a society and structures that see individuals and families as equals and architects of their own lives irrespective of what needs they have. Bravery is also needed from us. Individuals and families need to believe and trust that we can do it for ourselves.

A new inclusive reality.

Real Cooperation #43 #cong23 #reality


We evolved to be social animals that prioritise cooperation, not competition. That is our reality. Our dominant ideology of neoliberalism rejects this. It is causing the destruction of our world.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Nourish others.
  2. Shun extractors.
  3. Work cooperatively
  4. Realism is better than blind optimism.

About Conor O'Brien:

I am a retired dairy farmer from a tradition of cooperative and local involvement. I am a member of the Board oversight on Mitchelstown Credit Union. Member of Knockmealdown Active that develops outdoor activities there. Also involved with a local group using walks on the Knockmealdowns and the Galtees to build the community. I help to organise an October storytelling workshop on was on Whiddy Island. Learning more about the soil every day. Reading. Local and general economic history. Evolutionary biology.

Contacting Conor O'Brien:

You can contact David by email.

By Conor O’Brien

Religion, quantum physics and reality.

We evolved to be social animals that prioritise cooperation, not competition. That is our reality. Our dominant ideology of neoliberalism rejects this. It is causing the destruction of our world.

We are all linked in community. Religion was the means of transmitting the science and values needed to live in this wonderful world in which our greatest pleasures come from associating with others. Religions evolved with our species increasing knowledge of their societies and how the world worked. Just as properly functioning markets are a very effective means of exchanging goods, so also were religions very effective means of transmitting social values and science.

Einstein said that “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” The problem of the Christian religion began when it rejected Galileo, and the science which showed the universe did not revolve around the Earth and man. It became blind to the reality of the world which science had revealed, which led to it losing the authority to speak for the values that hold society together. Evolutionary biologists such as David Sloan Wilson are now developing the knowledge of how we evolved as social animals. “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary”

In the absence of a theology that incorporated science a powerful section of society has promoted the primacy of their individual power over social and environmental needs.

Last August I brought my third cousin Bill Stokes of California and his friend Adam to visit our common Frewen homestead in the Glen of Aherlow where our great grandmothers Eliza and Brigid Frewen came from.

We visited Clonbeg graveyard where the Frewen grave is, just as another group were going in. I recognised Jimmy Barry among them from hillwalking with him.

We went in and took photographs at the Frewen grave and followed the other group down to the holy well where Jimmy was explaining it to them. We joined them and Jimmy recognised me; the visitors were going, “Does everyone know everyone else in Ireland?” Jimmy said, “No, that’s normal in Ireland; we do only one degree of separation here. The rest of the world needs seven.”

“Yeah, a likely story”

A few of them lingered to talk to us and I asked them what was their connection to Clonbeg. They were all siblings, (60-70yrs) , scattered across the US, and they get together every year, so they had decided to visit their peoples graves in the Clonbeg. They did not know the location of the grave.

I asked them what was the name?


Astonishment all around. They were from Connecticut, Texas, and all over. But some of them had gone to the same Mary Knoll seminary that Bill had been to.

Obviously I had to remind them, “It’s normal to make connections like that in Ireland”

I had recently been listening to a person explaining how a recent Nobel prize was for Quantum physics and I remembered enough of it to make the connection. In Quantum physics there are particles smaller than an atom which are spinning + and -. They are so connected that if one separates them even as far as the moon, a change in one will be reflected in a change in the other. Don’t ask me anymore: its all quantum physics.

So this was a perfect example of Quantum Frewens all coming together.

Bills friend Adam could not believe that this was all happening in a graveyard in Ireland and finishing up with quantum physics. I kept telling him that this was normal in Ireland.

Coincidences do happen, and I’m not going to say that we might not develop a theory of Irish relations that matches quantum physics. But if our knowledge of how the world works was still at the pre-Galileo stage, we would have accepted an explanation that involved saints and ancestors guiding our steps. And possibly have made offerings to St Sedna, the patron saint of the holy well.

Today we have a much clearer knowledge of how our world works, so we can use a story about quantum physics to explain how three different branches of Frewen’s arrived at their family grave together. But the story is still carrying the same messages that communities matter.

Over the past 50-70 years we have been part of a great natural experiment in breaking our social bonds. It is justified by a theory of economics which claims that individual greed and competition at the expense of nature and society will benefit everyone. It prioritises financial growth over regeneration of nature, private accumulation over community needs, ignores scientific knowledge and methodologies, is of benefit to only one per cent of the population, and glorifies norms of behaviour that are regarded as psychopathic in normal society.

The evidence is plain that the experiment is a failure. We are in the middle of a global process of destroying the environment through an exponential rate of extraction and consumption of fossil fuels and other raw materials. We need to change that reality by building an alternative system from the ground up, not the degrowth of a failed system.

We need to grow with the patterns that regenerate nature. Respect nature, diverse scale of communities, diversity within communities, make resources shareable, avoid extremes, reduce energy, recycle, reuse, use natural processes. This does not mean rejecting science, but directing our efforts to productive and nurturing ends, not consumption and domination. I can tell you from my experience of changing out of conventional to regenerative agriculture that it is one of the most enjoyable and learning parts of my farming career.

We start by changing our values and for that we need to stop basing our spiritual life on a theology based on medieval science. A theology of domination will not do this. We need to form a theology of nurturing.

The Butterfly Effect #42 #cong23 #reality


We must ‘regress’ back to nature to address climate change but what does that mean for the human race, and can we actually achieve the required homeostasis?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. ‘As you were’ is how we need to be. We need once again to reach equilibrium with nature.
  2. We, as people, are interconnected and our actions impact one another. Will our efforts at just transition in the face of climate change be for the greater good.
  3. We cannot predict all unintended consequences.
  4. We need less people.

About Angela Duffy:

I think too much and write too little.

I am a child of three who asked too many questions and turned into a scientist.

I am a generalist; I keep asking why about new things. I moved from science to business.

I escape through life drawing and see the world beyond the day-to-day through my camera lens. I am visual.

I am an inventor, investor and Mammy.

Contacting Angela Duffy:

You can contact Angela by email.

By Angela Duffy


The Butterfly Effect

The reality is we have to reverse and go back to nature and balance in the way that our ancestors maintained homeostasis between man and our environment. To our modern knowing, to the way of Indian tribes, Aborigines, African tribes. However, doing this in the stepwise progression required, or rather stepwise regression, will take too long; we have expended natural resources and increased industrial momentum to a place where reversal at the pace which supposed progress came about will not save our species nor many others.

The reality is that we will build more machines, we will introduce more technology and accelerated means of reversal. These machines and this forced reversal will solve problems but will the approach have unpredictable outcomes? Even with AI we cannot predict infinite scenarios, nor can we map all interdependencies and associated consequences. When we solve one problem, we may well compromise reversal and restoration elsewhere. We may also do the opposite.

The new machines, technology, intelligence can only be based upon the past and presents unpredictable future consequences that may well leave us is another state that requires fixing. The reality is that this is a risk that we have to take.

Can we restore nature across the world in order to bring balance per the population we have and how do we maintain this balance without getting to the same place again? Stuffing all peoples into urban centres might allow nature take its course in sufficient areas of land. Would urban centres sustain, grow, have technology, social structure and mindset to maintain the desired status quo? Our scientific knowledge and medical advancements have enabled population growth. Should we cease progress in these areas to ‘allow nature take its course’? Perhaps the reality is that we simply need less people. This ethical dilemma is rarely spoken about in the context of climate change.

We already know that the action of peoples in one geography has a nature-based impact on people elsewhere in the globe and we face the ethical dilemma of just transition. However, is this a stepwise regression that will have insufficient impact in the time required?

Interconnectedness now appears to be our enemy, when once our interconnectedness with nature was our hidden strength.

IS REALITY FOR REAL? #41 #cong23 #reality


Is there really one reality?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Look
  2. Observe
  3. Ask
  4. Question

About David Iguaz:

Studied to be an archaeologist but circumstances steered me towards the ceramic industry in Portugal. Apart from my bread earner I try to be useful in environmental activism as well as to try and raise the political awareness of the population.

Contacting David Iguaz:

You can contact David by email.

By David Iguaz

I would like to start by apologising to the organisers and participants of this year´s edition of CONGREGATION for my late submission but only this weekend everything came together after a few months of reflecting on this nuclear subject. I did not want to write just anything to just satisfy Eoin and that of course meant some unbridled reflection on my part which requires some degree of not just free time but peace of mind as well.

It all came together somehow this weekend when I participated in this year´s EXODUS AVEIRO FEST which is a big get together of photojournalists and travellers that takes place every year in Aveiro on the north of Portugal where I have lived for the past 30 years. In a way it is a kind of visual CONGREGATION if you like.

The presentations I assisted made it very clear once more that the “reality” that the Western world lives in is very far away from the reality that countries outside this peculiar world actually live in. When you see images of dead whales stranded on the beach because of plastic poisoning, dead bodies on the street in Bucha, starving situations across the world, environmental catastrophes north and south and migrations crisis arising in every corner of the planet you continue wondering if the “reality” we live on in the western hemisphere and particularly in Europe is a reflection of the world as a whole.

Of course, is not but we Europeans tend to think it is because quite normally we unconsciously try and reflect our “reality” on everybody else and when the result does not come up to our expectations we somehow think that everybody else will sooner or later see the light of our “reality”. This idealist projection is a mental thriving force that keeps us going unconsciously mainly because we do not realize we live in a golden bubble. To see other widespread realities, we should ideally exit our comfort zones and get out onto the brave new world out there but I realize this is easier said than done. Funnily enough, the need to get out and see the other realities is becoming less needful since those other realities are knocking on our front door almost daily making the need of an actual trip outside our bubble almost useless. Climate change is one of those calling warnings. We do not need to go to Antarctica, Greenland or the South Pacific to feel the consequences of our actions. Pity we always have the comfort of our own homes to shield us from the everyday pain.

The fact that the news we receive everyday are a tiny representation of the truth does not help either. This of course varies from country to country. In Spain, where I am originally from, the news are more biased than the ones from Portugal but again it depends on the medium you get your information from.

At the end of the day, no matter where you live in this world, you should always assume that somebody somewhere is trying to manipulate you into their point of view.

To avoid that, one should always use two powerful tools at our disposal. They are simply two question words, made up of three letters each, they are the words WHY and HOW, and I firmly believe they are very powerful indeed. They are the ones that invariably spark our instinct and imagination and above all our curiosity. If you keep asking them long enough until you are satisfied you will eventually come up with a satisfying answer that will explain the reality at hand.

This is not very different from our teenage times when we were growing up. For some reason at one stage, we stopped asking those two simple questions which explains in a way why we find ourselves where we are today. History and Prehistory play a crucial role in finding some of those answers and imply looking back in order to understand where we are and where we are going (or should be going).

Observation is another powerful tool at our disposal and we should always use it and abuse it at will. Nowadays there is a lot of background noise in our brains and it prevents us from thinking clearly but in those cases, we should always fall back on the two words we spoke earlier. In theory, it should pave the way to make things clearer and simpler.

I would like to finish with a simple thought:

Realities are all around us, we should always strive to perceive the ones that matter.

Is this the Real Life? Is this Just Fantasy? Caught in a Landslide, no Escape from Reality #40 #cong23 #reality


In a time of deepfake, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence can we believe anything we hear, watch or read without witnessing it ourselves. Even when we witness something people interpret and experience differently.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Is there more than one reality? Are Freddie and Elvis really dead?
  2. Can you consider yourself a positivist, a constructivist or a pragmatist in a time of deepfake?
  3. Can you identify deepfakes?
  4. Are we in fear of losing our creativity, innovation and individuality to the technology.

About Noreen Henry:

Academic Develop (N-TUTORR Project) and Lecturer in Computing at the Atlantic Technological University.

Contacting Noreen Henry:

You can connect with Noreen on LinkedIn or send her an email

By Noreen Henry

When I read the Congregation 2023 theme of “Reality”, this is what started to play in my head:
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (Lyrics) 🎵 – YouTube

In the world of research, we have ontology which examines “what is reality?” At a basic level there are ontologies:

  1. There is one single reality or truth.
  2. There are multiple realities.
  3. Reality is constantly negotiated, debated, or interpreted.

While Epistemology examines the question “How can I know reality”. It relates to how we understand knowledge, how we understand our own thinking process, and how we think other know. At a basic level we can consider three epistemologies:

  1.  Belief that knowledge can be measured using reliable designs and tools.
  2. Belief that knowledge can be measured to discover the underlying meaning.
  3. Knowledge should be examined using the best tools available to solve the problem.

Combining your own position on ontology and epistemology together you will get a holistic view of how you understand knowledge. This is your research paradigm. In Social Science there are three research paradigms:

  • Positivism
  • Constructivism
  • Pragmatism
Research Paradigm  Ontology  Epistemology 


One single reality or truth.


Knowledge can be measured using reliable designs and tools.




Multiple Realities Knowledge can be measured to discover the underlying meaning. 
Pragmatism Reality is constantly negotiated, debated, or interpreted Knowledge should be examined using the best tools available to solve the problem.

Looking internally, you may identify with one of the three paradigms but in the current world of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, deepfake, alternative facts etc., can we clearly identify?

Gamage, et al. (2022) define deepfake as “synthetic media generated using sophisticated algorithms which reflect things that did not happen for real but computer-generated for manipulation purposes. … created in the form of image, audio and video by leveraging AI are far more realistic to identify if its being synthetically created by replacing someone else’s voice or video.” A high-profile example goes back to 2017 when two advertising artists used images and voice of Mark Zukerburg and a well know news channel imagery to present a recording of Zukerburg hyping about having data from billions of users. (Somers, 2020)

Somers (2020) recommends three areas to pay attention to in recognising deepfake as face, audio, and lighting. But with advances in the technology this is no longer as beneficial.

To test your ability to detect deep fake try out:
DeepFakes, Can You Spot Them? (mit.edu)

If you scored as poorly as I did go back again and ask yourself, are you still a positivist, a constructivist or a pragmatist?

If you scored as poorly as I did go back again and ask yourself, are you still a positivist, a constructivist or a pragmatist?

So, who does thrive in the deepfake world? According to Wel (2023) in Psychology Today is it the those calling the “liar’s dividend” that is those that claim that anything and everything is fake even when there is data to show that it is true or does exists or did happen. Putting doubt of misinformation is enough to discredit a source.

To combat this Wel (2023) recommend investment in detection tools and education on identification of AI by individuals. We see similar recommendation in education today in relation to AI and particularly generative AI in education but no solutions!

Gamage, D., Ghasiya, P. & Sasahara, K., 2022. Deepfakes and Society: What Lies Ahead?, Tokyo: s.n.
Queen, 1975. Bohemian Rhapsody. London: Queen & Roy Thomas Baker.
Somers, M., 2020. Deepfakes, Explained. [Online]
Available at: https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/deepfakes-explained
[Accessed 20 11 2023].
Wel, . M., 2023. Who Thrives in a World of Deepfakes and Misinformation? The “liar’s dividend” benefits people who cast doubt on objective evidence.. [Online]
Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/urban-survival/202310/who-thrives-in-a-world-of-deepfakes-and-misinformation
[Accessed 20 11 20023].

Those Pesky Rabbit Holes! #39 #cong23 #reality


Reality sometimes isn’t reality because we’ve altered in some way in the language we use. It is a useful exercise to sometimes become aware of the thoughts and images in our head, and in our conversations with others and try to be clearer, to avoid the use of rhetorical devices.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Language is useful, but treat it wisely.
  2. 50,000 thoughts a day – we don’t need all of them.
  3. Like electronic devices, it is important also to turn off our rhetorical devices.
  4. A disaster might not be a disaster, and if it is, it is nothing to worry about

About Bernard Joyce:

A human first and foremost, living in rural Mayo with a vision for a better place for everyone. Company is called New Paradigms. Doing rural-type things like chairing the local GAA club, playing a few tunes in the local, amateur drama and kayaking

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can connect with Bernard on LinkedIn, follow him on X or send him an email.

By Bernard Joyce

Reality! What a great topic for Cong 2023. I mean there are all sorts of ‘rabbit holes’ one could down on this subject. But hold on a second! Rabbit holes are real, but humans can’t really fit down rabbit holes, and besides, there are possibly some animal welfare issues at play here also. Furthermore, if we did manage to fit down, how would we get back out? So, oops, I think I may have opened a can of worms just now. Well, firstly, I’m not sure if worms are kept in cans, and then why would one need to open them if now going fishing? Perhaps it might be safer just opening a “Pandora’s Box” but then we might have to address the ‘elephant in the room’.

Language is wonderful. We used words to share information, to convey meaning, and to elicit an emotional response. Words can inspire, persuade, and convince but they can also destroy and even kill.

We can paint pictures with our words, in our imaginations, and in the imaginations of others. For millennia, we have told stories and employed rhetorical devices often borrowed from literature to communicate to the world.

But sometimes the images we create can have an adverse effect. We allow ourselves to become crippled by debt, crucified by taxes and might even end up dying from a cold. Many might identify with the feeling of being immobilised or tortured by their circumstances. Both these images, however, convey a sense of powerlessness, of helplessness, of not being able to do anything to extricate oneself from one’s circumstances.

What can be worse is that we often use language when speaking to ourselves. We risk continuing to be immobilised long after the debt is paid and tortured by our circumstances and life events.

Rhetorical devices can be powerful in literature, in business and even in our day-to-day living but like all ‘devices’, we are advised to turn them off occasionally. Sometimes, we need a language detox! Advocates of meditation often speak about becoming the observer of our thoughts, of becoming conscious; of developing our awareness; and of experiencing nothingness.

Awareness is key, and the key to awareness is clarity, of being able to see something clearly. We might say seeing something as ‘black and white’ but even that expression lacks clarity,

If we take debt, for example, it might be as simple as taking a pen and paper, writing down the amount owed and then writing a list of expenses and seeing what actions can be taken to improve the situation. In the process, recognise and acknowledge any thoughts or images that emerge as just thoughts and images, some useful, others not! Great innovations and solutions very often emerge from a much deeper place within us. To access that deeper place, we sometimes need to quieten the noises in our head, to tone down the language, to “call a spade, a spade’ Aagh!! There I go again, but you know what I mean – call a bill, a bill, a cold a cold and that elephant in the room, a topic that needs to be discussed.

The late author Richard Carlson in his book “Stop Thinking, Start Living” (Carlson, 2012) recommends that to avoid confusion, anxiety and overstimulation, we need to develop the ability to dismiss thoughts when they enter our mind. The average person will have 50,000 thoughts in an average day, and not all are useful to us.

Reality is closer than we think and it is important in our week, and in our day to factor in a few ‘reality checks’, just stop for a second, take a few deep breaths and notice how we are feeling, notice what our mood is like after spending time on social media, or watching the news, or coming in from an autumnal walk in the forest.

Nothing is real, only that present moment for us, and our experience of it.

It is really useful also to become aware of the language we use in our head, is it possible to tone down the rhetoric? Perhaps try “I feel hungry” rather than “I’m starved” or, “I feel tired, rather than “I’m exhausted”.

In our dealings with other people, our family, and our work colleagues, it is also useful to be aware of the language we are using. I was on a flight recently which announced that it had to make an emergency landing. After the cabin crew advised passengers to wear warm clothing and gave a quick demonstration on what to do on landing, there was a surreal calm silence as the plane circulated the countryside to burn off fuel for the following 30 minutes. An opportunity in the face of disaster for some perspective, clarity, and no need for hyperbole or superlatives. So, in a work conversation a few days later, when a minor difficulty was described as a ‘disaster’, there was an opportunity to reappraise the situation.

Of course, it is important to occasionally tone down the language that we use, and there are other occasions to ramp up the rhetoric “….when the multitudes they flock in throngs to the true capital of Ireland where the world’s finest minds will congregate….”

#cong23 Press Release

Cong Gets A Dose of Reality

(14.11.2023) Cong Village in Co Mayo will get a strong dose of Reality from Nov24-26th with the celebration of the 11th annual CongRegation  (www.congregation.ie) mind mesh unconference.  Over 100 people will probe, discuss and share insights on this year’s theme of ‘Reality’ over 3 days and 7 different events.

The event kicks off with a night of ‘Reality Talks’ in Ashford Castle on Friday 24th November with Astronomer, David Moore from Astronomy Ireland,  Shaman Aldo Jordan from the Irish School of Shamanic Studies, Philosopher Stephen Costello, founder of the Viktor Frankl Institute of Ireland and virtual world avatar creator Aileen Carville, CEO and Co Founder of COLONII.

Saturday will see 100 attendees discuss their submissions in rotating huddles spread through multiple venues in Cong village during the full day unconference while their children enjoy ‘Forest School bushcraft workshop.

Following the unconference clowning artist Mitchell ‘Moshe’ Cohen, who is flying in from the United States especially for the event, will deliver a 1 hr session that will awaken playfulness in a mature way and develop the power to transform the energies that create disturbance and disconnect.  The workshop’s explorations and practices draw from physical theatre practices, clown improvisations, elements from butoh dance, qi gong and feldenkreis movement.  A second workshop led by Chris Reina from MakerMeet will use generated graphics to put attendees into places that are not real.   Using AI generated graphics and real humans along with a green screen and chromakey technology the workshop aims to take and make art, reality, illusion, confusion, ineptness and incompetence – while having lots of fun!

Saturday will finish off with a special performance of ‘The Magic Play’, which has recently completed its run the Bewleys Café Theatre in Dublin.  Branded as fusion of comedy, magic and theatre this play will take place in the beautifully restored All Saints Centre in Clonbur Village.

Sunday will finish off with a GeoWalk with a geologist from the Joyce Country Ecopark mixing myth, reality , fact and geology.

In order to earn a ticket each attendee submits a 600 word article, via the website, outlining their own unique perspectives, thoughts and experiences on the theme of ‘Reality’, all of which are published on the event website.  These submissions form the basis of the presentations on Saturday November 25th in small huddles of 10-12 people.  Each huddle is chaired and attendees are given 10-15 minutes to share the insights from their submission followed by a group discussion.  The huddles rotate 4 times giving all attendees the opportunity to present and meet as many of the other attendees as possible, in a peer to peer environment.

“The Reality theme builds on previous themes with submissions exploring the scientific and spiritual nature of Reality through to the grounded reality of everyday life.  Outside of the rich and stimulating discussions the event also forges deep and serendipitous connections, due to the informal presentation style and social locations used for the event.  In order to spark off inspiration attendees can also pick one of the curated books on reality that are available free of charge from the website” commented organiser Eoin Kennedy.

CongRegation is a free event and would not be possible without the generous support of its sponsors

Mayo.ie, Blacknight, MKC Communications, Informed Decisions, Grow Remote, IRDG, Blockverse Ventures and the Advanced Productivity Skillnet.  All the submissions to date can be viewed on the website.  Submissions are now being accepted via the online form https://congregation.ie/submit-entry/

  • Ends –

For further information

Eoin Kennedy


086 8339549