By coWORKer Catherine Anne Held
Every week members and guests come together at WORK Petaluma for a coffee social. Since coworking is as much about sharing ideas as it is about sharing office space, the ensuing conversation is always lively and surprising. Here’s a peek inside…
From TEDx to Google glass, and from low literacy rates to Crazy Eddy the reformed embezzler-turned-activist, Tuesday morning’s 10 am coffee social at WORK Petaluma is always a stimulating romp. It is a creative petri dish of WORK regulars and newbies mostly consisting of self-proclaimed nerds/computer geeks, freelance writers and other self-employed people that prefer WORK’s congenial atmosphere to their home office or a coffee house. As a former coffee house refugee, I always take away some practical tips and creative inspiration from the socials.
While it is impossible to follow the conversation thread exactly, much of the lively discussion focused on education, prompted by Saturday’s TEDx Sonoma County presentation by Square Peg author L. Todd Rose who talked about the disastrous consequences of designing fighter pilot cockpits to fit the “average” fighter pilot. As WORK Petaluma founder Natasha Juliana noted, after blaming the pilots, the instructors and the plane builders, it turned out that a cockpit built for the average really fit no one at all. The Air Force went to the plane manufacturers and asked them to “Design to the edges,” i.e. make their design fit the extremes and not the so-called average. (In the case of the fighter jets, it meant putting an adjustable seat in the cockpit.)
Even though the airplane manufacturers had to suck it up and redesign the airplanes, by holding the line, the U.S. Air Force got the needed innovation. Square Peg author Rose, who went from dropping out of high school with a .9 high school GPA to teaching at Harvard, now consults on how to change the education system to focus on the individual needs—and genius—of each student, and says we need the same radical reform of education.
CoWORKer Nancy Sands-Johnson jumped into the conversation wishing we could interview Thomas Edison’s mother and commend her for pulling her inventive son out of the school that was slapping him for being bad, which quickly shifted into wondering why GATE (gifted and talented) students are at such high risk of being dropouts and addicts, and how to get services for all kids with unique issues.
Of Google Glass Bombing and Birkas
CoWORKer Barry Stump gave us a sneak peek of the heralded “Google Glass” after his weekend visit to the Google campus. I pretended to know what he was talking about as he described the wearable computer that looks like a set of eyeglasses or goggles. After considering the ramifications of a stranger being able to see your Facebook profile while talking to you, the group quickly realized that that soon Google Glass could be combined with the kind of face-recognition software that found the Boston Marathon bombers so quickly. While some of the inventors in the group started designing software scrambling devices at the table to offer up personal privacy and protection from such devices, the birka emerged as the best possible low-tech protection.
We were then regaled with tales of a new sport called “glass bombing,” that fortunately does not involve flying shards of glass. While some of us thought it creepy-weird that the wire rests against the bony part of the skull so others could not hear Google Glass’s audio component, we were all amused by descriptions of Barry’s hijinks. Because Google glass is voice-activated, Barry had great fun shouting out commands such as “Take a picture!” to his friends’ devices and watching them startle.
Somehow, the conversation leapt to unjust incarcerations of criminalized drug offenders and the big impact yet few punishments meted out to white collar criminals like bankers, inside traders and the afore-mentioned Crazy Eddy. As another provocative coffee social came to a close, the tips that still resound are “Design to the edges,” and Barry’s fathering tip to help regulate technological innovations such as Google Glass. He daily admonishes his two boys, “Use your powers for good and not evil.”
Catherine Anne Held, PhD is an author, artist, teacher and energy medicine practitioner. She can be reached at catherineheld@comcast. net