Food For Pandemic Thought #4 #cong20


Our lock down experiences have given us time to think.
These reflections can sustain us in the future..

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Key Takeaways:

  1. No matter what age we are we are capable of change.
  2. No man or women is an island, we are all on this planet together and need to act for each other.
  3. Pandemic data is a treasure map for the future.
  4. I value and love my family friends more.

About Geraldine O'Brien

 I qualified from DIT in 1977 with a Dip I.D. I worked in New York and London using my design skills Then returning to Ireland in the 1980s worked with Kilkenny Design for six years before starting my own practice Geraldine O’Brien Design (1986-2009). My experience at Kilkenny Design influenced my freelance work considerably both as a designer and educator.

I have always sought variety in my interior/exhibition work and welcome the challenge and the opportunity for personal development. Projects have ranged from rehousing of Magdalen women to purpose built accommodation, refurbishment of a five storey Fitzwilliam Square Georgian house and mews, sheltered accommodation, nursing homes, general residential interiors and exhibitions for the craft industry.

I was commissioned by The Crafts Council of Ireland to deliver a training programme to benefit emerging crafts people across the country and developed a format incorporating lectures, mentoring and provision of workshops between 1986-1998.

Since 2009 I have been in practice with my husband in our firm McCarthy O’Brien Architects and Designers. MCOB in Dublin. We have two adult children in professional careers.

What is fundamental to the way I work, whether designing an interior, an exhibition or a craft display, is listening to the client or craft maker, getting to know their style and their story so as to create a space and ambience that preserves their individuality and help them create something special.

Contacting Geraldine O'Brien:

 You can contact Geraldine by email or connect with her on LinkedIn

By Geraldine O’Brien.

Imagining Society 3.0

Food for pandemic thought.

I find it fascinating how Covid19 has pushed and shaped us to adapt or be left behind.
What does this mean for society 3.0. Could we draw some parallels?

Covid19 has shown us how quickly and adaptable a society can be to retrain, no matter what age people are in order to survive. Masks, zoom, working from home, plastic money, staying home for the greater good, etc. are now the accepted norms.

I never expected to live through a plague or pandemic in my lifetime.

At various times I’ve thought about what it might be like to live during a World War as my parents and grandparents did, even if their accounts were more removed as they lived in neutral Eire. As a child I remember vividly how petrified I was when the papers had headlines like “The World is Going to End in Two Days!”.

Many of my story books back then gave accounts from a children’s perspective of what it was like and how they coped. These accounts shaped my takeaways.

Headlines that provoked fearful thinking about death was in a funny way something I found helped me face uncomfortable things, arming me in many ways.

A self taught lesson from my childhood reflections was to be prepared as much as I could. Talking about dying is still a taboo subject in today’s society. If we were to begin to talk more openly about it, we might find it less fearful. Would it help us to value our lives?

Covid19 has challenged us in many ways including making us realise that anybody can become infected and die sometimes through no fault of their own. It is frightening but that’s not a reason to talk more openly about it. My reflections have made me value what’s around me. I can’t control when I will die, but it allows me to make the best of what I have, without hurting others.

But what can you do when the enemy is invisible? Trying to inform ourselves seems to be driving the increased book sales for plague books during the pandemic.

People just like me want to understand and be prepared.

I prepared what I could as I waited for the Government to direct us. Thankfully, after a few dodgy weeks the Government did what was needed. Yes, in parts the advice seemed nuts at times and we will have to wait to see how we will all recover and how best to reinvent ourselves. Could we be more aware of the self learning knowledge our Covid19 experiences give us?

This collective social knowledge is a valuable resource that can help us measure all of our experiences and record them for future research. Having this data will help us prepare and hopefully be a force for good. A treasure map of sorts for the future leading to a better world?

One current project shows a way we can use our knowledge beneficially.

DCU is archiving the Irish lived social experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is inspired by the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) COVID-19 Oral History project adapted for Irish requirements including GDPR compliance.

Anyone can leave an account of their Covid experience for the future, I can now leave an account for my first grandchild who was born during Covid. She will be able to access this archive and see accounts of what happened around the time she was born. Like living history from the real people who lived through a pandemic and are unlikely to be challanged by conspiracy theorists later.

Recently my sister texted me to sign a petition to stop the Sandymount Beach Road in Dublin being reconfigured to reduce traffic and install cycle lanes.

A number of County Councils have also taken over more road space for ‘temporary’ new cycle lanes, a brave decision on their part using the lockdown to test reactions. I like the idea of installing more cycling lanes and making it more people friendly.

I’ve had conversations with a couple of Sandymount friends, whose main reason to object to the cycle lanes is a buildup of traffic in the Village of Sandymount.

While I can see their point It seems to me that commuters will make changes themselves finding better faster routes and modes of travel once traffic systems are changed, aided in future by computers with real time data which will also prompt people into more radical changes. A move into the city has changed my thinking and methods of transport and the car is the last form of transport I consider when not too long ago it was the first.

Feeling rebel like I didn’t sign the cycle lane petition. I am viewing it as an indication that my behaviour is more open, changing and am embracing it. Wondering and hoping that others are up for change now that we have an enforced reflection time imposed on us?

Knowing I can change I am open to the possibility of experiences I never imagined.
If we don’t encourage people to engage, we stay static as a society. I now see this initiative as the start of the beginnings of better towns and cities for the future?

Yes, I see how unfairly Covid has dealt it’s bitter cards. The daily crushingly cruel numbers that are still rising and falling and many people suffering long term health effects. I am feeling grateful that my family and friends are well. A good friend lost her lovely dad before his time, her mum is coping well and is an inspiration to me and others.

Keeping your friends and family close in new ways. Thinking of them, reflecting how much you value and care about them and keeping in touch virtually.

Has Covid made us gentler humans, helped us to begin to realise less is more?

Maybe the future is learning to expect the unexpected, finding out that we can live through uncertain times. Revisiting and re-evaluating will help society improve as more data becomes available allowing for little changes to be made that can make lives better. I am hopeful that if I can change I am not alone in my thinking?
We are a species that do better in herds. Isolation and being cooped up does not allow us to act in everybody’s best interest.

Acceptance that we still can evolve even though it’s hard for us to imagine that as we age. Knowing we recently did gives us hope that we can mould our new experiences in the future to suit, without it being totally about ourselves. Perhaps we can bend society to accept that doing something for the greater good is superior than doing everything just for ourselves.

The Effect of Technology on Society #3 #cong20


The society we live in is, seemingly, a dynamic and ever-changing entity. It is tempting to say that social structures have a life of their own. But I would argue that the single most identifying characteristic of a society, any society, is inertia. Society, left to its own devices fosters change at a glacial pace. What does move the needle is the effect of technology and the advantages that it brings. As we adapt to innovation the way we relate to each other alters in myriad ways, both socially and politically.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Technology is the active force in the changing of society.
  2. Society has a great deal of inertia towards change
  3. Because technology is unevenly distributed so is societal change.
  4. We are more than capable to adapting to change

About Tom Murphy

Classics and Philosophy student at NUI Galway.

Contacting Tom Murphy:

You can follow Tom on Twitter

By Tom Murphy

Society is the collectivised version of ourselves. No matter where we live, we are either living in sync or out of sync with the world of people that surrounds us. While we are never truly apart from our social selves, even in the social groupings we find most harmonious, we can also have the sense of a feeling of otherness, of outsider-ness. At times we are so submersed in our social functions that we can find it hard to separate our personal, social functions from our tribal, collective functions.

We are born into our social structures and have no say in the matter. We are ‘thrown’ into this existence as the philosopher, Heidegger, would have put it. But this does not mean society’s standards and mores are immutable. In fact, society is changing at an exponential rate. The world of my children is very different from the world I grew up in. Likewise, the world that I was exposed to was very different from my grandfather’s. However, the world of my grandfather would have been very similar to his own grandfather and the similarity in lifestyle would have gone on back through the generations until feudal times and the advent of the Enlightenment. Before that, to see a similar moment of transition in Irish culture one would have to go back another seven hundred odd years to the arrival of Christianity on our island. And even that was a gradual process, taking some two hundred years to complete.

In contrast to the glacial movement of societal change over the centuries the world around us is now changing its nature at an ever-increasing rate.  Changes in our lifestyle brought about technology and enforced by the current pandemic means that remote working has gone from being a nice notion to an essential means to keeping our society functioning.

This throws up two observations: It is clear that we are a very adaptable species and that change is caused by stimuli external to society. While I will never have the digital adeptness of my children I still manage my electronic and informational world in a manner pretty much to my liking. Like most people, I go with what works for me and leave the rest. I adapt as best I can.

Secondly, The drivers of change in our lifetime have been technological in its essence. As we have seen across the millennia, society, left to its own devices, will barely change at all. It is a conservative (not in the political sense) institution, not budging an inch unless it absolutely has to.

As technology throws up new possibilities and new wealth there is, in consequence, space for new ideas to grow into and from the new opportunities that are thrown up. This activity can inform our political thinking. Marx needed an industrial working class to exist for his own ideas to have any substance. Whatever you may think of Marx, his ideas were born out of the technological advances in industry that were happening during his time on earth.

Societies, like the technologies and ideas that form them, are amoral on their own account. They may judge each other harshly or admire each other wholeheartedly. They may cherry pick each other’s best attributes while remaining separate and distinct from each other. For societies to have survived to this present day suggests a strength in how the human coalition of minds and activities coalesce and operate together to form something greater than the sum of its parts. However, this ongoing symbiosis can be threatened by uneven technological development. This can exacerbate the differences between societies (and within them) leading to unequal development and its consequences.

Individuals are products of their culture and some cultures value the role of the individual more than others. In more individualistic societies the power to make changes rests with the individual. While it is true that individuals can act as the embodiment of society changing ideas they, nevertheless, have to have on board a significant number of other people to have an affect.

This is where we find ourselves in our Western cultures – susceptible to the effects of technological developments, yet clear enough in our own minds that we operate under the assumption that we can be the change we seek.

The sense of personal empowerment that we have is not universal across all societies, everywhere. It is not even fully developed within our own societies. If it were, we would not have instances of racism, classism, sexism, ageism and so on. That inequality exists in our society at all allows for the possibility and potentiality for change. But as I have noted there is a great deal of intrinsic inertia to be overcome. A given society will not change on its own. It has to be given a push. A force of some sort has to be exerted upon it.

However, if we depend on internal change we come very quickly to a point where an unstoppable force, in the need for change, meets an immovable object, societies entrenched traditions.

The resolution for this impasse is to take note of history and the economic drivers of technological innovation. But add to that our very human ability to adapt to circumstances and opportunities, even if they come in the guise of universal pandemics.

Remote working, for those that can do it, (which is far more than was once thought possible,) could be a boon to the planet just in terms of reduced pollution and the saving of our most precious personal resource, time lost in commuting.

Societal change in the modern world is brought about by technological development. As our capabilities change we adapt to the new world that is being shaped, sometimes with vigour, and sometimes by dragging our feet. But adapt and change we must. The society that emerges may not be the one which we envisaged but it will be different from what went before. Hopefully, it will be different in a way that we can all engage with and appreciate.

The Opinion Age #2 #cong20


Society 3.0 is The Opinion Age. In it, tribes are coalescing around ideas. Their thinking is binary and their judgements are increasingly powerful. They are making and breaking people, often free from any recourse to the law. This is happening with the full support of corporations, universities and mainstream media.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Individuality and freedom of expression are on the wane.
  2. Feelings are more important than facts.
  3. Discourse is giving way in the face of binary ‘good’ v ‘evil’ judgements.

About Alastair Herbert

I’m the founder of Linguabrand, an insights and strategy consultancy. Our deep-listening robot, Bob, measures brand differentiation and consumer psychology. This helps our clients position their brand to difference while connecting their comms to customers’ deeper needs. We’re based in the UK but work around the world.

Contacting Alastair Herbert:

You can follow Alastair on Twitter, LiguaBrand or Email 

By Alastair Herbert

The 1.0 agrarian world was highly localised. Most people lived in villages. These were periodically upset from the outside by tribal conflicts or marauders. Essentially the biggest force was the weather. And most effort went into the work of surviving on meagre resources. Belief systems rested on the metaphysical, both religious and superstitious. And established religious institutions were the home of intellectual pursuit.

2.0 Industrialisation made nation states. The bicycle widened localities (improving the gene pool as a result), railways connected villages to towns and towns to fast growing cities. New countries came into existence. Italy in 1861. Germany in 1871. Even older countries, like Scotland and England, only really emerged in this period by cementing their myths. And they went to war on an industrial scale. Increasing wealth, based on Empires and trade, saw an expansion in the middle classes, urban infrastructure and public health. Intellectual pursuit broadened, shifting towards science, as the educated took to explaining the world around them. The industrial age created the political and social philosophies we take as given (in the West, at least). Self-determination. The rule of law. Respect for individual rights. Freedom of speech.

Society 3.0 is global. It’s built on huge investment in digitisation, which is about dematerialisation. You can’t touch a digital transaction, music track or image, for example. Warfare and crime have moved into the digital space. China has recently cyber-attacked Australia. Russian espionage has been attempting to steal Covid vaccination details and to influence elections in other countries.

The driving force in Society 3.0 is opinions. Now people have a public presence previously impossible for all but an elite of entertainers and leaders. We can access and share opinions with remarkable speed. In 1815 it took three days for Wellington’s victory at Waterloo to reach London. Now, over 3000 miles from London, it took less than three seconds to hear that Kanye West was thinking of running for US President. Intellectual pursuit is now subject to mass opinions, with facts (such as biological gender) retreating in the face of feelings.

We’re seeing increasing tribalisation with people coalescing around issues. These issues are presented in binary terms. What’s important is to be seen to be on the ‘right’ side. Corporations and mainstream media are backing this binary approach, anxious to be seen as ‘good’. People are ‘de-platformed’ (censored) and morally-censured, even sacked, for holding ‘wrong opinions’, often with no legal recourse. Opinions are also becoming dematerialised. Industrial age movements, from the suffragettes to gay rights to racial equality, had clear leaders. But digitally-driven movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, Trans Rights and Black Lives Matter are largely faceless.

It’s often said that this world feels more vulnerable. Compared against the mass industrial slaughter of the 20th century this may be an over-statement. But what is vulnerable are the broad principles that emerged from the industrial age. The individuality and freedom that came out of the industrial age is on the wane. In a society driven by emotional judgements of the tribe, self-censorship is essential to social survival. And there’s no opt out. Why? Because ‘silence is violence’.

We need to talk about….. #1 #cong20


The C word has taken over 2020.  But not the one you are thinking of.

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Key Takeaways:


Key Takeaways:

  1. Recognise the shared future we have
  2. Acknowledge the work that needs to be done
  3. Focus a little bit more on the Horizon
  4. That Horizon is us

About Alan Costello:

I support early stage ventures to get past toddlerhood with NDRC

I sit on a few Boards which tell you more about me – Irish Forum on Natural Capital, FirstFortnight and the Mill Enterprise Centre, Drogheda.

Contacting Alan Costello:

You can follow Alan on Twitter, LinkedIn and Medium

By Alan Costello

Hiya. Howaya Congregation,
We need to talk about that thing. The C word. It has been all over the news this year. We’ll never forget 2020. It has pulled people apart. It has pushed people together. We have all become experts this year in social distancing, in hygiene, in awareness of our sometimes fragility.
You, know. The C Word.
No, not that one, not Covid.

The other C words that we should be more aware of this year:

  • Community
  • Collaboration
  • Consciousness
  • Country
  • Connection
  • Civilisation

These are the more important C words for today and for our near and further futures.
Community: When you see the local GAA club volunteering to do shopping for Cocooners (another important C that snuck in there), or Neighbours spending socially distant time linking with each other, thats Community

Collaboration: The simple adherence to guidelines, to support our frontline staffers, the support from corporate leaders to their teams to deliver a changing distributed workforce, thats Collaboration. (spot the sneaky c in there – Change..)

Consciousness: Think for a moment, how your life changed this year, where you had more time, space and capability to be thoughtful and self analytical. Realising that the commute and the time with family had unheralded value. (you know the drill now, lots more Cs!)

Country: This year we saw units as large as nation states falter and rise again, deliver new forms of civil change and historic partnerships being formed. Our Countries Governments are the under appreciated hand that support public health and wellbeing and we best not forget their role.

Connection: That feeling you have when you join with someone on a human, emotional or intellectual level, when you add or receive value from another, gather those moments for yourself and those around you. Connection is a process, a journey, or a bridge – it needs a place to begin and to go to.

Civilisation: In 2020, we inhabitants of this village, county, country, continent and world received a sharp awakening as to the global nature of the challenges in front of us. We have also Connected, Collaborated, Communed and been conscious together like never before. Lets try not to lose that again.

Too many C words, too important to do slight justice – Context, Containment, Challenges. I cant go further

Yes I can
I must
One final C
Let you never lose sight, Dear Ireland


For ever Yours