I arrived yesterday in Hong Kong. I have been thinking about this day for some time, to “make it in China”. It is good for the company. It’s going to be good for me. My very first moments with the bus driver wanting to charge me twice, and the taxi driver not speaking any english refusing to pick me regardless of my heavy luggage were difficult. But since, everything feels more than right.
The buildings seem to emerge, growing from the lush vegetation. The temperature is very high and humid. It’s been raining a lot.
The place where I am staying is a large truck repair yard owned by the father of my friend. My family in Japan are metallic structure builders, the same smell, I feel at home here. We eat all the meals together, with the grand-mother, the parents, the children, the grand children. I really love that 4 generations are living under the same roof peacefully.
For my first day, I was supposed to go to town and find out about the basics : food, transport, communication, but… I got distracted :) The incredibly kind landlord, the father of my friend allowed me to borrow this mountain bike… and as I was going to get office supply, I got carried away and started a 30 miles journey, some of wich was on broken roads in the mountains.
On the way I found possibly great spots to test Protei.
The Bay between Shenzhen and Hong Kong is filled with long and narrow vessels.
At some point, what was a road just became a dry waterfall. An accidental canyon.
Overall I am so happy to be here. This is where we must be now. On the edge.
I wasn’t too sure what I was getting into when I approached this building.
Well it is called the “Brooklyn Navy Yard“, by the water, just opposite of Manhattan. My friend Architect Mitchell Joachim told me there would be a ton of good people there…
Yeah, I know, we are moving to Hong Kong, but I am super excited knowing that a home for Protei might be under construction in New York ;) Gabriella is from here and we dream of being allowed using a table there for now :)
The New Lab has this huge terrace…
And just by the future building there is this large dry dock.
I cannot help but dreaming how we could build very large “Ocean Zeppelin” in there ! Above Protei_003 I built in New Orleans in 2010, model is Hunter Daniels.
This is a view of the future NewLab from the current NewLab. Manhattan is just there.
Sometimes you might meet a master. Tom Chi is a master.
I feel lucky. But there is much more.
I was so impressed, I asked where I could buy Tom Chi’s book. And to my surprise, I did not find it anywhere.
So I proposed to write it. We decided to rapid prototype it. “Tom Chi” became a verb. It became a website. It became a twitter hashtag #tomchibook, it became a way of thinking, an attitude, perhaps a way of life.
With a handful of passionate followers and Tom Chi’s himself, we started brainstorming what the book would have as content. For several days, we met regularly. I want to continue until I have a hard copy in my hands. I wrote a 360 Pages book about my father the sculptor Tetsuo Harada in 3 languages, about 700 pictures and drawings. I feel capable and exciting to handle this.
All our brains melted over-clocked. We were all willing. And asked for more.
Needs an explanation.
Needs more explanations.
So many models.
Here from left to right: Tom Chi, Laura Edwards, Cesar Harada, Gabriella Levine in classroom 1, on board of the MV Explorer.
But we did not have only these brainstorm sessions with Tom, we also had classes. Following are some photos and notes from a class.
Why we should try more things.
And now why trying, is learning, is saving time towards achieving goals. And is fun.
And why prototyping is brave, and smarter than only thinking. Thinking by doing, is better than thinking only. Why designing by prototype is better than just designing.
And in that respect, there is no such thing as “failure” as long as you learn from it.
Same thing when it comes to business. It is not necessary to have millions to test an idea and waste all that time and that money. You can prototype it and quickly find out where it fails, and find many alternative routes.
Same for a website or a software. A piece of papers, a few sticky notes. Done. A full user experience.
Same for a marketing campaign. It can be acted. You can test it on your colleagues, friends and family. Get feedback, improve, change radically.
Now in the “jungle of options”… How can one finds its way?
Chi’s clearly defining R&D. Research is multiplying options, even contradictory directions, especially contradictory trajectories. Development is, after choosing one option, or combining several options, to be as efficient and focused on developing one clear thing with a list of specs, deliverables, outcomes.
For Chi, all products and experiences are producing mental transformations. Our devices alter how we perceive the world, and ourselves.
As a conclusion of this session, Tom Chi presented the work of his amazing wife Lucille Whitaker and her upcoming book about the inter-dependance of systems, an illustrated educational book.
Tom Chi has improved the way we work together and with others.
How to manage time, tasks, expectations. How to wrap up compelling experiences into learning, learning into actions, into transformations of the self. I will continue working on the book as long as I am allowed.
We have some content.
With the right way of thinking, all becomes possible.
What is the next internet?
Can we be intentional and create a strong platform for collaboration and build a positive global consciousness?
Can the singularity be not about machine taking over humans, but a true collaboration that empowers both?
Can we work together and exponentially augment human shared intelligence as a continuous dialog, instead of all thinking in our silos?
For me, this is the continuation of my research on Open Architecture. Above, my illustrated history of western philosophy. I need to continue this research. This is a work of epistemology.
Ways of thinking. To unite the world, we must admit there are many different ways of thinking. It is in diversity that we will find Peace… and Chaos.
“Everything we build in New York, fails”, heard it 3 times at the event. Rad.
If we want Protei, or any other intentionally meaningful technology to impact the life of the People, it’s got to scale, according to Erica Kochi and Christopher Fabian of UNICEF Innovation. Want to see more of them, or how these principles work? Here. Captured at Unreasonable At State, 2013 05 03 in Washington DC.
Build for your user: Simple and cheap
Technology is just 5% of the solution
Things given get lost, things own stay with people
Design for Scale
Create sustainable system
Build Open and Adaptable
High-Level decisions are not made on precision of information
This is a rough cut of the BBC program, keeping only what’s about Openness and Protei or Cesar Harada. Great thanks to Graham Strong, all the BBC team , Toni Nottebohm for allowing some of her material to be shared, all the Protei team in the video and Tom Higgs. Also below a related article.
Last week BBC’s Horizon put out a special episode looking at the next generation of technological advances. Two of the stories they reported caught my eye as they suggest that the future of innovation lies in an open way of working.
Liz Bonnin presented the show from one of The Science Museum’s storage hangers. Photo Credit:BBC
The first story looked at the work of Professor Bob Langer at MIT. Professor Langer has received the Draper Prize and National Medal of Science for his work in biomedical engineering. Langer’s approach to research is to bring experts from a range of fields together to create an interdisciplinary team.
Previous approaches to designing medical devices were designed by doctors based on existing materials. Langer sought to design new materials to operate inside the body and be safely absorbed once their job was done. To make this possible he assembled a team including engineers, chemists, neurosurgeons, pharmacologists and a number of other disciplines.
The approach of applying one expert’s knowledge to the problem posed in another’s primary field has many parallels with open innovation, and led to advances never thought possible by those working in single fields.
The second story reported on the Protei project which we heard about recently at Open Source Junction. Protei was founded by Cesar Harada, and seeks to produce sailing drones which can be used to clean up oil spills.
Harada released his initial designs online and set out forming a community of scientists and engineers to collaborate on the project. Supported by a kickstarter campaign, over $33,000 dollars were raised allowing him to hire a work shop and invite his community to work together on the open hardware project.
The programme then focused on the contrast between the model of inventors patenting an invention which Harada characterised as “good for the manufacturer but not very good for the people”, to the “new culture of openness” shaping what we invent.
One comment that piqued my interest came from Gia Milinovich, who spoke of a “tension between the open source movement and business”, and a “battle between these two worlds”. While this paints an exciting picture for a science documentary, I think the language used here was slightly disingenuous.
Designer Wayne Hemingway then described how he “loved the idea” of an environment with no patents and no copyright, which while certainly a valid goal doesn’t do well to represent the way open source works. The most common open source licences all at least require that the the original author be credited for their work, which in a copyright-free world wouldn’t be enforceable.
These criticisms aside, It’s great to see open source and open hardware getting airtime from a mainstream broadcaster like this.
After 4 months at sea. We finally landed. After travelling in 14 countries, together. After sharing a small cabin with no windows and a tiny bathroom. It is all behind us now. As everyone was saying good bye, I had to tell my Unreasonable Fellows ”You are not going back home, the ocean is your home”, they are always welcome.
You can imagine it was not easy saying good bye. A new family was formed, now scattered as a global network. Each going back to their countries.
Hard to believe that we were the lucky 10 companies chosen out of about 1000… it is now history. Allow me to list theses 10 companies:
Agua: Providing clean water to 300,000 people w/out chemicals or energy (just plants).
Damascus Fortune: Nanotechnology that transforms carbon emissions into material for spaceships.
Innoz: Most used mobile-app in India. Designed to leapfrog internet. +120,000,000 users.
GuruG: Educates and empowers teachers through a “gamified” platform.
Solar Ear: World’s 1st digitally programmable and rechargeable hearing aids.
Protei: Wind powered, shape shifting, open source sailing drones that explore and clean oceans.
Evolving Technologies: Radically affordable medical devices for maternal care in emerging markets.
One Earth Design: Harnesses the sun for cooking & energy. Ranked best solar cooker on earth.
Prakti: Feeding 250,000 people daily with ultra-affordable and fuel efficient stoves.
Artificial Vision for the Blind : Artificial intelligence leveraged as a non-invasive cure for blindness.
Keep an eye on these guys. What will happen to them in the next months and years? Will they realise the idea that “entrepreneurship can change the world”? Will they become icons of social entrepreneurship? Or will theses companies fall apart? Time will tell.
Testing Protei 10.5
Protei 10.5 Testing in Parque del Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain. Thanks to the Prieto’s (Muriel, Jesus, Rosa), Bianca Cheng Costanzo & Nils Mattisson.
Photos by Improbables productions, Fanny Pernoud & Olivier Bonnet.
What we learnt
The world is a big place, but I want to keep my summary as short and synthetic as possible.
During the voyage we built 3 Protei prototypes that we transported and tested in a variety of waters. Although not having access to our working space, tools and materials often felt limiting, we learnt how to do more with less, simplifying how we prototype Protei.
In a nutshell Protei needs to be:
More rugged, to take around.
Smaller needs to fit in a standard suitcase and be easy to strap to a backpack. Lighter in particular would allow the use of rechargeable D cells as ballast.
Simpler to set, wire at the beginning and while the machine is already in operations with spring loaded clamps at the end of wires.
Transparent is convenient for maintenance and acknowledging if there is a water leak inside the dry case.
Equiped with a modular removable dry case inside the hull for the electronics makes maintenance much easier.
The ease to recycle the hull is critical to most people since they do not want to see Protei polluting the oceans.
The mast length should not exceed the total length of the boat, for safer packing and transportation.
Sensors: travelling to all these places, talking to local scientists we learnt a lot about the sensors they would want to transport within Protei.
Cost: we have a much better idea of who can buy Protei, for what and at what price.
Managing Performance expectations: We now know what people want this technology to do. We must make clear that we are delivering a beta product at this point.
Define our identity and culture as a corporation. Some have described Protei Inc. as a technology coompany, other as social entrepreneurs, some as a clean-tech startup. Being surrounded by other companies helped us understand how similar and different we are. This may sound obvious for those who know us but this is our corporate culture:
Ethical order of priorities: 1. Environment, 2. Social, 3. Technology, 4. Profit.
Open: The problems we are trying to address are huge, as huge as the ocean, there is enough work for everybody. Let’s work together.
Community-driven development, Product and timing to release open source documentation: To make sure we cover our overhead and stay open, we release the documentation when we ship the product, not before. Internally, we work on extremely fast prototyping cycles.
Fast paced. Being an Open Hardware business means that we invite others to copy and improve on what we do. In other words, we are constantly trying to put ourselve out of business, helping as much as we can competition. We have to innovate constantly in order to stay ahead of the game.
Radical innovation on 3 main topics (for now): 1. Technology (Shape Shifting Sailing Robot), 2. Open Hardware, 3. Global innovation community (Social R&D).
Collaborative, competitive: Collaboration and competition can be one same playful activity as long as it is fair and harmless. Again, the ocean is big enough for all of us, let’s address its issues together.
Measured risk: like any corporation, we need to survive to thrive and contribute to our maximum capacity to the world.
Organic growth: Protei brings about a new technology, but it is really a new industry potentially. We want to grow with our community.
Ambitious but not speculative: too many engineering firms or labs guarantee their technology would scale before testing. Let’s not do that. Because this is a new industry, we do not want to have opportunistic investment speculating and deviating us from our core value.
This is about learning: Developing Open Hardware Shape-Shifting Sailing Robots is not that common and there will be bumps on the road. Let’s learn about them.
Non-military applications: we will not provide technical support for life threatening applications.
We learnt about what kind of people we want to be, who we want to work with:
About the people:
Integrity, loyalty: we can all agree that we we are all different, and we need to be able to trust each other.
Creativity & Persistance: doing whatever it takes to make it work, even it is not in the job description. Be resourceful, own it.
Humour: being capable of laughing especially in the difficult or painful situation. That tells
Curious & Fearless: In a given experience, the expected outcomes may be A, B or C. Choose D. Ask the hard and the painful dumb questions over again.
I also learnt a lot on a personal level. Many of which are hard to explain with words.
Gabriella Levine: getting to know my business partner. Yes, she’s absolutely awesome across the board. Exceptional, I’m the luckiest man in the world to work with Gabriella. For me developing good people is the condition to developing good technologies.
defining my personal identity as global citizen. I have been traveling so much these last years… The ocean is my home. Forever.
Achieve a dream, Sailing around the world: since I am a child I have been dreaming of sailing around the world. Check. Next time I want to do it wind powered though!
Develop strategies of “How to use capitalism for the Environment”, “Open Hardware for the Environment”. I feel I made a lot of progress thanks to all the discussions we had on board and on land.
Built a new family: and that’s not a detail. A trusted network, that’s priceless.
Learning to “dream with my eyes open”
I think these 2 images below sum up what has changed for me.
Retrospectively I feel I was almost almost gambling, about the different options. I feel I know more what I am doing now.
A lot of what seemed mystery is really common sense. It all makes sense.
Many of my intuitions have been verified. This mask has the third eye. I’m not trying to evoke anything esoteric here, I am only suggesting that a lot of what I felt instinctively about the business was made tangible. I feel more confident now. Also impatient to get on the “battlefield” after so much preparation.
logistics of moving
set up a company in HK in order to manufacture
find an office, a workshop and a place to love
anticipate transportation, food, insurances
Find a sponsor / partner / client to contribute towards our manufacturing cost and be at the forefront of sailing technology and re-inventing ocean big data capture and clean up
1 ship. 100 days at sea. 14 countries. 10 companies. 2o mentors. 600 students. A life changing experience.
I love the comment of the Unreasonable at Sea Media team explaining what a “Hack-a-Thon” is :
While in Morocco, Gabriella Levine and Cesar Harada of Protei took advantage of the engineer community in Casablanca to host what they called a “hack-a-thon”. While most people think of “hacking” as “the process of gaining unauthorised access to computer systems for the purpose of tampering and / or stealing personal and financial information,” the intentions for the event was far from malicious or illegal. The attendees of the event were presented the challenge of designing and testing a boat in 12 hours using scraps and raw materials not typically used for constructing any type of aquatic vehicle. The accelerated learning and prototyping that came out of the event defines a new type of “hacker” as one “who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.”
We have to give great thanks to ESITH ENACTUS for being such great hosts and participants. The workshop was lead by :
Cesar HARADA (France-Japan): Inventor of the Protei Shape-shifting system, Ex MIT Project leader, TED Fellow.
Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master from ITP Tisch New York
El Wali El ALAOUI (Marocco): Founder of SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, first hackerspace in Morocco.
Darren BENNETT (USA): Creative Director, Microsoft Studios, Member of the original Kinect group.
17:00 – 18:00 : Test in the water. fim, photos, documentation.
18:00 – 19:00 : Diner
19:30 – 24:00 : Work at ESITH for those who want to continue, advanced hacking, improve prototype, documentation, share on social media.
Our amazing organising team!!! 4 boats in the water! All winers!
We gave a t-shirt and a hoodie to the winning team… A few hours later : this was on facebook!!! The pride of working together is mutual. Thanks to Roman Yablonski for the amazing Protei logo, people love it! We must also tell for the story that our original intention was to hold the Protei Hackathon, at the first and only (to date) hackerspace in Morocco : SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace in the middle of the desert by the sea, founded by the mesmerizing El Wali El ALAOUI. I designedthis sticker in honor of our collaboration :
We keep precious memories from the hackathon. Next time, Protei hackathon in Tarfaya, Inchallah!
Protei meets OCP
We have been lucky to meet the sustainability managers of the largest Moroccan company, the OCP. ”OCP is the world’s biggest exporter of phosphates and derivatives. The company is solely responsible for the production and sale of Moroccan phosphate resources, mined at the Khouribga, Ben Guerir, Youssoufia mines totaling 85 billion cubic meters of reserves in central Morocco, and Bou Craa about 1 billion cubic meter in Saguia el-Hamra region, in the Morocco-controlled part of Western Sahara. OCP is a state owned company created in 1920.” Source : Wikipedia. OCP has both an R&D and a sustainability department. OCP used to operate a large fleet of ships to export phosphate, but it is no longer the case, it is now the client that is responsible for procuring the materials. We had a good discussion about the environmental implications of the OCP and will keep contact with the group. Special thanks to Soraya Joundy for the intro.
I tried to explain this so many times, and often got that blank expression in return. The normal curve that some environmentalists advocate doesn’t start to be good enough for the environment. It is not about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, we need to go much further than that if we want to revert our negative impact on the environment. The idea is very simple. What people call “green-tech”, “eco-friendly” or “clean-tech” suggests that it is good for the environment. Not neutral. But that can only be true over time. For example : a solar panel requires a lot of energy to be manufactured. You need to use a solar panel for a long time, maintain it and use it in an efficient context to offset the environmental cost of designing, developing, manufacturing, packing, shipping, selling it to a customer (first half of the red area on the graph) before you even start using a green product. I remember reading an average solar panel needs to be used ~10 years (other half of the red area) to offset it’s own environmental cost from fabrication to sale. It is only after 10 years of regular use that a solar panel goes below being neutral and starts becoming really having a positive environmental impact (green area on the graph) until it “dies”. Even that does not include the product “after life” when it is being recycled, hopefully “returned to nature” without damage or accumulation in a landfill.
Protei collecting ocean data will not offset it’s own environmental cost easily. What it does, it reduces the environmental cost dramatically in comparison to operating a large fossil fuel-powered oceanographic vessel for the same job. On the other hand, a large Protei unit that performs environmental clean up (plastic debris, oil spill) would offset it’s environmental cost very quickly by capturing trash /pollution / environmental “value” in the ocean that others have produced. I call that “absorbing other companies externalities“, some people use that to get evaluated on the carbon market. We want to partner with companies that have a lot of these externalities, probably through the channel of Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility, some companies would speak about “Shared Values“.
Why do I mention that in my blog post about Morocco? 2 main reasons :
I encourage young engineers to think that it is not about minimising the negative environmental impact their technology has ; it is about having a positive impact on the environment. That may mean changing the agenda of the company. Can it be profitable? I think so in many cases. If not short term, that comes across to me as a generally good long-term strategy. What’s also true, is that destroying the base of everything else – the environment – will not permit any of the rest to happen. We need to make these choices.
In this post I mention OCP. OCP is apparently doing a great job mining phosphate in its own rights, but the fertiliser that gets exported, when used inappropriately by their clients can have heavy implications on the environment, especially the oceans with hypoxia,eutrophication and many other directly or indirectly fertiliser-induced effects on the ocean do occur. We would love to investigate on this topic and perhaps assist OCP improve the after-sale.
We enjoyed Morocco and we’re excited to come back. These days some of the people we talked to are discussing how they could open and manage a hackerspace in Casablanca :) … That’s exciting! Keep going ladies and gentlemen!
Dans le cadre de la série de conférences “45 minutes of Success Story Telling”, la JCI Rabat a le plaisir d’accueillir Mr. Cesar HARADA et Ms. Gabriella LEVINE pour une conférence sous le thème “Success Story of Change Makers”
Cesar Harada est inventeur, Environmentaliste et Entrepreneur Franco-Japonais, il est TED Senior Fellow.
CEO de Protei, César est actuellement en train de developper “Protei” – un navire autonome à voile révolutionnaire, à coque à forme variable.”
Gabriella Levine est américaine, Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master de ITP Tisch de New York, et COO de Protei.
Soyez Parmi nous pour les découvrir et partager leur expérience.