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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.

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.

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.

Security Forward Risk & Intelligence Forum’s Autumn Meeting was held on the Thames Sailing Barge Lady Daphne at St Katherine’s Dock in the City of London on 28 September 2016.  The meeting began with a presentation from our guest speaker Brian Dillon MSc BSc (Hons) FCMI FSyl FICEM.  Brian is Director of Rubicon Resilience Limited that specialises in counter-terrorism contingency planning, exercising, and crisis management.  Previously he was the operational head of New Scotland Yard’s Specialist Firearms Command and led London’s armed response police and a national counter-terrorism intervention capability.  His previous work included developing strategies to deal with armed attacks, multi-agency interoperability, and security at high profile events and places.  Brian entitled his talk "Dixon Of Glock Green? Terrorism Response & Intervention". He gave a fascinating talk outlining the history of armed police in the UK and how changing circumstances have influenced how we respond in new environments.  As we operate under the Chatham House Rule, Brian was able to discuss some specific cases with us. Brian then took questions and there was a lively interactive session which extended into the coffee break. 

After the coffee break we were joined by Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, Chairman of the Z/Yen Group who gave an impromptu talk about the Lady Daphne and the history of Thames Barges.  As he had not been warned that he might be asked to do this, his talk was all the more impressive. 

After our usual ‘round robin’ session to identify key issues in the ‘in tray’ at present, we gave the floor to our ‘Speaker in Residence’ Lt Colonel Crispin Black, MBE, MPHIL, who is an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security.  His presentation was entitled "The Sun May Be Setting On The Age Of Wealth And Freedom May Be Ending", taken from an article by William Hague in the Daily Telegraph over the summer.  He began by stating the obvious - that in terms of population growth, and possibly wealth creation and consumer spending, the world is tilting away from the ‘Old West’ towards Asia in particular.  The great advantage likely to be retained by the west is that most of its countries are reasonably stable democracies, under the rule of law, where the basic procedures of legitimate government are accepted by the population - at first sight, at least.  But as Brexit and the ongoing US presidential election, regardless of its outcome, both show, post-WWII political consensus is fraying badly under the pressures of globalisation, mass immigration, and a sense that many heavyweight and solemn establishment judgments are merely the prejudices of a sheltered and wealthy minority.  Both the political and expert elites have lost the case with electorates.  Political turbulence is already with us.  Instability may lie ahead.

Following the meeting we dined at The Guoman Tower Hotel in St Katherine’s Dock.  Our dinner speaker was travel writer Harry Bucknall, who was great company, having spent twelve years in the Coldstream Guards and worked in Security for some time before deciding to become a writer.  Harry lightened the mood with a very witty and amusing description of his latest book "Like a Tramp, Like a Pilgrim", a signed copy of which was presented to each of the participants.  His talk covered the vagaries and rewards of long-distance walking and pilgrimage, and was greatly enjoyed. As always, the networking opportunities resulted in much 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 7 December 2016, 16 March 2017, 13 July 2017, 9 October 2017, 4 December 2017, and 22 March 2018.

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.