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The Irregular Newsletter of Z/Yen Group Limited

Catch up with current projects, new ventures and see some very bad puns (Editor: bad metaphor) via Z/Yen's blog or the eagerly awaited newsletter.

To receive your copy electronically, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Security Forward Risk & Intelligence Forum’s Winter Meeting was held at The London Capital Club in the City of London on 7 December 2016.  We began with a presentation from our guest speaker Lorraine Homer, who specialises in security and policing communication and has handled some of the UK’s most dominant news stories, including communication for the London 2012 Olympic security, 7 July bombings, and the south-east Asian tsunami.  Lorraine entitled her talk "Broadcast Terrorism And The Power Of Social Media".  As a communications expert Lorraine gave an appropriately insightful and illuminating talk highlighting the power of communications and the speed of change in the modern world.  She pointed out how effectively terrorist organisations have adapted to new technology.  As we operate under the Chatham House Rule, Lorraine was able to discuss her past experiences and warn of some of the possible dangers in the future.  She then took questions and there was a lively interactive session which extended up until the coffee break.

After the coffee break Professor Michael Mainelli, Chairman of Z/Yen Group, gave a brief presentation on Z/Yen's IDChainZ project.  IDchainZ is a mutual distributed ledger (MDL, aka blockchain) system for sharing identity information in closed groups while meeting the EU General Data Protection Regulation.  The short presentation highlighted the inexpensive, mobile phone-based applications that sat on top of a secure distributed ledger.

After that technical interlude, we moved on to our usual 'round robin' session to share 'issues of  the in tray’.  As always this gave each of the participants an opportunity to highlight their most pressing issues and to alert other members to latest developments, connections, or need for help.

We then gave the floor to our 'Speaker in Residence' Lt Colonel Crispin Black, MBE, MPHIL, an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security.  His presentation was entitled "Do You Know Who I Am? Who On Earth Do You Think You Are? Establishing And Protecting Identity In The Modern World" (as ever with Crispin, no points for brevity).

Crispin argued that in philosophical terms it has always been difficult for humans to agree a convincing definition of individual identity.  Nevertheless, throughout history a workable form of identity has been the foundation of effective government underpinning border control, taxation, conscription, criminal justice, voting practices, and both business and state administration.  In recent years it has become easier to establish physical identity through DNA testing and easier to store, protect and access identity-related information using mutual distributed ledgers and cryptography.

Demand for easily accessible proof of identity is likely to increase rapidly in the next few years as modern and developing states begin to understand its value and convenience.  Three priority areas seem to be: voter registration, border control, and access to medical treatment and other state benefits.  At the same time as states push for more comprehensive identity databases, individuals will seek more control over the storage and release of their own personal information.  To Crispin, MDLs, accompanied by some kind of dual key cryptology, are uniquely placed to provide this.  As always Crispin’s talk opened up a wide range of questions.  In accord with our tradition, Crispin suggested a drink based on his talk.  Given that his talk featured the new US President-elect, Donald J Trump, along with Mexican border discussions, he picked the 'Bad Hombre', suggested by relatives of his out West.

Following the meeting we had drinks in the Members' Bar and then returned to dinner in our private room.  Our dinner speaker was Professor David Dilks, Professor of International History at the University of Leeds for 21 years, before becoming Vice Chancellor of the University of Hull.  He gave an outstanding talk about his book "Churchill & Company: Allies & Rivals In War & Peace", a copy of which was presented to all those present.  As David Dilks was Research Assistant to Sir Anthony Eden, he was uniquely qualified to reflect on what was happening in the corridors of power during the post-war period.  His talk engendered a great deal of debate and, as his latest book is about the Katyn massacre of Polish officers, he was also able to discourse on that as well.  As always, the networking opportunities resulted in the usual exchanging of cards and we know that many of our Members are in regular contact with each other which adds value to their Security function.  Future Meetings are scheduled for 22 March 2017, 13 July 2017, 9 October 2017, 4 December 2017, and 22 March 2018.

Ian Harris ventured to the deep south to join an Ethics In Finance event at the University of Sussex.  

The event was organised by the Philosophy Department and included contributions from three "home team" philosophers and three visiting folk from the world of commerce.

The subject matter was varied and wide-ranging, including the ethics of tax avoidance, ethics and credit rating, and the ethical principle of autonomy in the murky world of payday loans.

Ian spoke about trust, trustworthiness, agency and systems, considering the ethical pros and cons behind digital identity systems such as those discussed recently by Michael Mainelli in papers such as this one - click here.

The attendees were mostly research students, who tended to ask pretty challenging questions. Word is that Ian did not break down under this interrogation, but as we only have Ian's word for it, we must rely on his ethical principle of truth telling.

A lovely contrast of old boat and new tech greeted seventeen Distributed Futures Forum members.  This was perhaps our most participative event so far with a range of 'kit' from the HTC Vive SteamVR headset and computer rig, to Bushra Kelsey-Burge's Haptic Wear, and a Microsoft HoloLens.  At points the surreality of people next to you experiencing a completely different, immersive reality such as "Trials On Tatooine", fighting off quixotic windmills perhaps, provoked a fair amount of laughter.  And all the while we were on a 1923 Thames Sailing Barge, Lady Daphne.

Bushra Kelsey-Burge, is a designer and educator exploring body-centred interactivity. Her recent projects have explored VR and AR. She has degrees in Biochemistry from Imperial College, Fashion Design from London College of Fashion and Applied Imagination from Central Saint Martins and has had careers in technology in finance, sustainable fashion and lecturer of marketing at London College of Fashion as well as more recently working as a product developer on interactive projects in advertising.  She presented “Second Skin - Portal To The Illusion Of Touch: Wearable Haptics In VR”.

Her argument was why leave out the largest sensory organ we experience the world with - the skin?  VR has evolved from film media, so naturally visuals and sound have been the focus with all the other senses as a bolt on after thought but this is actually a divergence away from the way we experience the world.  Having come from fashion, her natural approach has been from a second skin body-centred angle. She has been working on haptic projects the last few years to integrate with VR using soft circuits embedded into fabrics wherever possible.  She explained her ElectroMuscleStimulation project and how it was iterated with gamers and feedback from tech shows.  She also another VR project explaining dark matter with interactive costumes and 360 film.

Bushra put people into her Haptic rig and then showed how she controlled their arm muscles, forcing wearers to clench and unclench their fists.  All agreed, "weird"!!!

Tom Price, works as an Assistant Director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, where he specialises in helping to support transformational businesses seeking to develop and adopt both new business structures and emerging technologies.  His professional background complements a personal, and perhaps more esoteric interest in the effect of technology on our economy and society, and an enthusiasm for some of the more extraordinary and speculative ventures in this space. Tom's presentation was “Seeing The Reality – Can VR Cross The Trough Of Disillusion?”  His argument ran that Virtual Reality faces its first major test – can this transformative technology survive the approaching trough of disillusionment, and what will it look like if it does?  Tom gavet personal reflections on the global virtual / augmented / mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) industry, its relevance to the UK economy, and industry prospects over the next five years, including an exploration of the challenges the technology seems likely to face over that period of time, and how it might adapt and change in response to them.  VR/AR/MR systems have the potential to change our world in ways that we are only just beginning to understand, but they may have to weather a storm of scepticism before their transformational effects can be realised.

All agreed, VR/AR/MR may be over the trough, but were divided on whether VR or AR had the upper hand.  This divide was highlighted by the divide in affection for the HTC Vive (VR) and the Microsoft HoloLens (AR), about 50:50 all round.

We then adjourned for dinner and more fun & games, kicking off with our tradition of a relevantl cocktail, in this case what else but a Divine Delusion.  We were joined by the Hyperion Club of polymaths for a great dinner discussion divided into three sections:

  • I have a problem - where Philip Bond led a discussion on detection.
  • I have a dream - where Caleb Sawade shared his thinking on the very positive things AI could mean, particularly for friendship and emotions.
  • I have a theory - where Mike Halsall explored the idea that crowds might be wrong about crowdsourcing for prediction markets.

Ian was asked to give evidence to the House of Lord’s EU Internal Market Select Committee session on the impact Brexit might have on Professional and Business Services.  

The hearing took place on 27th October and is available to watch as a video on the website by clicking here; the session Ian contributed to runs from the beginning, 10:12, until 11:14.  That video remains live for a year, before disappearing into the ether for ever.

Being Ian, he took soundings from hundreds of people on the Z/Yen network and beyond before putting in his appearance; an effort that attracted specific thanks from the Chairman, Lord Whitty, at the end of the session. 

Ian is grateful to everyone who got in touch with him about this subject and would be delighted to hear from any Now and Z/Yen readers with further thoughts on the topic, as he is likely to be speaking and writing about this subject some more over the coming months.  Please e-mail Ian directly on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Of course, Ian isn’t the only or first Z/Yen person to give evidence to a House of Lord’s select committee; Michael Mainelli did so some three months earlier, in a hearing on the subject of blockchains.  For those Now and Z/Yen readers who simply cannot get enough of our Z/Yen people on the telly, that session can be seen by clicking here and jumping to 15:50, which is when Michael’s session started.

After their evidence sessions, neither Michael nor Ian were taken by boat from the Palace of Westminster to the Tower of London, never to be seen again, which is a good sign…we think.