Pause Fest 2019. My highlights.

I volunteered at Pause Fest this year, the “World’s leading creativity infused business event”. I was fortunate to be assigned as a speaker liaison, which meant I got to meet a lot of speakers and participants at the festival.

I highly recommend volunteering. The great thing about it is the bright yellow “TEAM” t-shirt gave me the confidence to walk up and speak to anyone, which I may not have felt so bold to do otherwise!

The festival brimmed with the positivity, excitement and enthusiasm of a diverse group of people wanting to share ideas. I met a lot of fascinating, friendly people and got to see some fantastic talks.
Here are the top things I took away from the three days.

“Everyday” blockchain

It’s great to see products applying blockchain technology beyond cryptocurrency. At Pause Fest I encountered a number of companies starting to build products and services utilising blockchain in exciting ways.

Reputationaire offer a way for you to leverage your user ratings on various platforms of the sharing economy (AirBnB, Uber, etc.) to illustrate your trustworthiness to others (and vice-versa). We put so much effort into making sure our interactions on sharing platforms reflect our respectful, genuine selves. It’s great to see a service emerging where we can leverage those ratings to prove our integrity in real-world transactions elsewhere, as well as know we can trust others we deal with online.

intimate brings trust and discretion to payments in the adult industry through their crypto token and ID-verified pseudonymous identities (more on pseudonymous identities below). The big takeaway for me was how beneficial this is for people providing services to others. intimate provides a platform where the trustworthiness of clients can be established, without their public identities being disclosed. Leah Callon-Butler’s keynote really got me thinking about a lot of ideas I don’t normally encounter in my normal conversations or reading.

Taking part in Pause Fest’s startup pitch competition, Emmi are building a platform that gets around the ineffectiveness of government to provide organisations with realistic ways to decarbonise, through a transparent, blockchain-based carbon management platform. Really exciting stuff.

Great sex-positive conversations

In one of those “a-ha” moments (for me), Leah Callon-Butler, the co-founder of intimate, introduced the idea of pseudonymous identities in her keynote “The future of trust: what does your data say about you?”.

We all have different aspects of ourselves we share with different people in our lives. The identity we share with our family is different to the one we share with our friends, our colleagues, and so on. Some identities we want to share openly, others we want to be more discreet about, especially when accessing adult content, products and services. That’s where having a pseudonymous identity is valuable. Whereas in the past one might use a purely anonymous identity, with no reputation associated with it, intimate provide a way for people to assume discreet identities, based on the pseudonym they use in that aspect of their lives, that still carries the trusted reputation of their owner.

Also, I got to see a great keynote “AI in sextech will raise awareness about female orgasm”, presented by Dema Tio, the founder of Vibease. Established after his work found him maintaining a long distance relationship, Vibease is now an award winning company with a suite of hardware products and a platform for their connected toys.

The presentation generated some laughs, sure, but Dema was pretty blunt in sharing research about the female orgasm, especially the reasons why some women have difficulty achieving them and (most importantly) what can be done to overcome those difficulties. It was great to hear a straight-up discussion about the topic that treated the subject openly and practically.

Getting our biases out in the open

Emily Rich, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups and founder of M8 Ventures, presented “Why we are all Bigots. Yes, even you”. The title alone got me in the door, and in her keynote, Emily provided an overview of the various biases that can afflict our decision making.

It was good to revise some well-known biases, like the confirmation bias, and to be reminded that most biases are expressed unconsciously. Putting effort in to acknowledge unconscious bias, then creating frameworks to uncover and work around them in our decision making is vital.
This sentiment was echoed in the keynote delivered by Dom Price (Head of R&D for Atlassian), where he emphasised the importance of cognitive diversity in teams and how valuable it is if you want to innovate.

Melbourne University hosted their Biometric Mirror in the Tech Garden at Pause Fest. Bias in algorithms isn’t new, but this presentation highlighted how those who train a facial recognition and attribute generating algorithm have significant impact on the outcome. The Melbourne University “biometric mirror” assigns 14 attributes based on a snapshot of your face. You can see what it thought of me below…

Designed to prompt conversations around bias in AI and the potential threats associated with this as we deploy the technology more widely, it amused me with how wrong it was with some attributes. Apparently the algorithm was trained with annotated image data created by “young, American men”, the influence of which seems to be evident in the result I got.

This highlights how it will become increasingly important to acknowledge the risk of writing bias into our algorithms and proactively take efforts to detect and avoid them.

Mindfulness is becoming more present

The positive productive impact of encouraging healthy mental activities in the workplaces is irrefutable. It’s great to see mindfulness being promoted seriously and openly in forums like Pause Fest.

Each day of the festival was opened with a meditation from Ray Good, founder of The Good Place. I was fortunate to attend his loving kindness meditation on day 3, which was a fantastic way to start the day.
Elsewhere on the programme, Megan Flamer, founder of Mindful Under Fire and Program Manager at BlueChilli, presented “Mindfulness in tech, and why it’s important”, and Dr. Addie Wootten, CEO of Smiling Mind asked “Can mindfulness change the world?” (yes, it can!).

It seems the wider business world is slowly acknowledging the role mindfulness can play in the workplace. Personally, I find it essential in cultivating metacognition, a topic I’ll be writing about more extensively in the future.

Some other highlights from the 3-day event was hearing Dom Price, Atlassian’s Head of R&D and Work Futurist, speak about how they work to create highly effective teams was fantastic.
Mark Brand’s keynote was a standout of the festival, resulting in a serious man-crush! There’s a lot of talk about human-centred design. What about human-centred business? Mark really lives his values, in a way one rarely sees. I particularly enjoyed getting everyone in the audience to stand up and form a contract with the person next to them to leave the world a better place than they found it.
The panel on ‘We’ve made it to Mars, what now?” included visiting speakers from NASA and CERN, along with the director of the Mars Society of Australia. It was entertaining to hear the panel discuss their thoughts on what human colonisation on Mars might look like and the challenges (both practical and moral) involved.

It’s somewhat of an understatement to say that I immensely enjoyed my time at Pause Fest.

Festival founder George Hendon and his team have done an amazing job of cultivating an event that is successful across the spectrum of business, technology and creativity.
Next year will mark 10 years of Pause Fest. It’s already in my calendar, and I can’t wait to see what the team are going to produce.

I love to write about ways we can think differently so we can live happier lives.
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I love to write about ways we can think differently about our lives and our perspectives, so we can live happier, more fulfilled lives.

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Ede Strong

I love to write about ways we can think differently about our lives and our perspectives, so we can live happier, more fulfilled lives.