After the inaugural Causal Islands Conference we considered ways to keep the conversation going between events. We wanted to continue engaging with our existing Discord community and decided on a monthly Discord Stage chat that we could turn into a podcast.

The Causal Islands Podcast will feature thought-provoking interviews with leading experts in distributed systems, AI, computing, local-first software, and more. We'll explore the intricate connections between tech + society and how these emerging technologies will profoundly shape our future.

For our first episode, we invited several speakers from the 2023 conference to chat about their takeaways from the event.

EP01: Causal Islands 2023 Recap

You'll hear:

  • How our speakers felt about the unconventional conference, and why it's important to have more holistic conversations about emerging technologies
  • The talks that inspired them the most and what they learned
  • How we're thinking about next year's conference, including ways to make the hybrid aspect more engaging, and where we should consider hosting it
  • The new projects that our speakers are working on today  

Here's a glance at the episode...

  • [2:39] Chia introduced herself as an Internet Artist and Product Designer at Figma. Chia's talk explored authorship, identity, power, and our role as mythmakers and technologists.
  • [3:38] Envisioning the future of computing involves looking at the political, cultural, and social implications of it. This isn't discussed at many tech conferences, but at Causal Islands, it was at the forefront.
  • [6:24]  Michael R. Bernstein is a marketing, sales, and business strategy consultant for high-tech startups. He's an engineer turned marketer, and his experience serves him well as co-founder of Reify, a tech marketing agency.
  • [9:04] Michael used his art background to approach the problem of communicating technical ideas clearly to less technical audiences.
  • [11:20] One of the goals of Causal Islands is movement-building. It's a long game, and you must educate first and then sell.
  • [12:09] Michael tackles the adoption of new technologies by not pretending to be something you're not, adapting quickly based on feedback, and focusing on how the product solves the problem.
  • [13:54] Quinn is an Applied Researcher at Fission. She's building Rhizome, a decentralized database. Her Causal Islands talk was about the philosophy underpinning Rhizome. In it, she explored local-first and individual computing in contrast to a model that takes globally collapsed context and understanding into one least common denominator.
  • [15:07] Before we can give folks these new tools, we need to explain why thinking about computing in this way is valuable and why the tradeoffs that come with building systems in that way make more sense than they may appear at first glance.
  • [17:20] The talks at the conference pushed back against colonial narratives of computing and explored how technology and ideology go hand-in-hand. This made Quinn feel more comfortable going deeper into these ideas in her talk.
  • [23:52] Quinn felt that there was a current of optimism and our ability to build a better world using technology as long as we're thoughtful and careful about how we're building it and its implications.
  • [27:00] Chia walked away from the conference with a reinforced belief that to realize the future, we need to look at the layer of people, relationships, governance, ownership, and decision-making. We can't just look at infrastructure, data, or protocols. This is often missed when building autonomous and pluriversal decentralized worlds.
  • [27:48] Jon Corbett's talk on Indigenous Computing Theory offers so many excellent ideas and a framework that we can use to help achieve this.
  • [32:20] There is a consensus that we would like to host the next conference in a place that is accessible and maybe a bit off the traditional path (vs going to SoCal for a tech conference). We should consider the conference in the context of the place that we're in, and we should endeavor to bring in an audience that isn't already entrenched in the technical space - for example, community organizers and nonprofit organizations.
  • [39:10] We might do remote watch parties in the future. We're exploring ways to provide a better hybrid conference experience.
  • [43:19] Causal Islands can be like a CRDT, where we can split off and work on our projects and then meet up at a larger event. This is the blueprint that Papers We Love used.
  • [46:47] What's next for our speakers? Chia's involved in a remote residency - Welcome to My Homepage - at the Museum of Human Achievement. She is exploring the question, "If a website is a world, how will we attend to it as we do land?" She's also working at the Phillippine Internet Archive, documenting Filipino internet culture.
  • [49:40] Michael is working with clients and, in particular, exploring working with AI and safe AI attribution.
  • [50:22} Quinn continues to work on Rhizome. She'll also be giving a talk at CodeBEAM Europe called The Tamagotchi in my Hands: Anarcho-transhumanist Biohacking with Nerves, where she'll explore expanding her own agency by building tech that is designed only for her purposes.
  • [53:03] The last Strange Loop conference is coming up, and Zeeshan's Papers We Love will curate a track with eight speakers.
  • [54:32] Boris helped organize TrainJam, a trip from Seattle to St. Louis on the Empire Amtrak train. for folks traveling to Strange Loop. The day after StrangeLoop is a Local-First Software Unconference, that Fission is co-hosting with Ink + Switch. Tickets for the Unconference are still available.

Listen to the podcast embedded above, or head to our podcast landing page to subscribe to the podcast on your preferred platform.

Co-Host: Boris Mann - CEO and Co-Founder of Fission, Organizer of Causal Islands

Co-Host: Zeeshan Lakhani - Staff Research Engineer at Fission, Member of Causal Islands Programming Committee

Causal Islands Theme Song by depatchedmode

Editing by Becky Vazquez

Guest: Chia Amisola - Product Designer at Figma

Guest: Michael R. Bernstein

Guest: Quinn Wilton - Applied Researcher at Fission

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