CIUUK15 Update

I’ve just sent out a message (similar to what is below) to our Computational Intelligence Unconference UK 2015 attendees…

At the time of writing we have 109 days to go (event is on 15th August 2015), we have 100 people already registered (our capacity is over 200) – 7 of which have given us some crowdfunding,  we have 5 speakers already confirmed (with much more time and space for additional talks/workshops). A very big thank you to those who have registered, and if you haven’t registered yet, then go do it now (website: http://ciunconference.org/uk/2015 )

But we need help! Here is how you might be able to help:

(1) Social Networking: We need help to get the word out about the event. If you have a twitter, facebook, linkedin or other social network account then it would be great if you could advertise the event. You can use our official Short-URL bit.ly/ciuuk15 and our official tag #CIUUK15

(2) Sponsorship: We are in urgent need of sponsorship. We’ve got to raise funds to cover the cost of the venue and the food & drink. We are doing our best to keep costs down and get the best deals. Ideally we need a few corporate sponsors, and preferably quite soon, however smaller organisations and personal donations will be very welcome (including crowdfunding offers). If you work for an organisation who could offer some sponsorship in return for marketing/advertising and bespoke audience-engagement, or if you could personally offer to cover the costs of attendance (which is roughly £60 a head), then please let me know as soon as possible. Even if you have a contact in a related company which might be interested in helping us out, then let them know and let me know. I will reiterate, we are non-profit, and are entirely organised by volunteers, and all incomings will go straight into venue/catering costs. The event is heavily dependent on the generosity of our sponsors and volunteers.

(3) Meet-ups/Hackathons: We have a seminar room, and we’re keen on having guest meet-ups and guest hackathons use the space for an hour or two each. So, if you lead or are a part of a (related) meet-up or hackathon, then please get in touch.

(4) Tutorials/Workshops: The same seminar room could also be used by a business or organisation for a tutorial/seminar/workshop. However, we may ask for a donation if the business is for-profit. Feel free to email me to find out more.

(5) Talks: We are also in need of more talks. Short talks and Long talks. If it’s a talk by a business then the business might also want to think about helping to sponsor the event. If its a talk from a personal perspective, or a very technical perspective, then the talk can be done freely (libre et gratis).

(6) Volunteering: We will need on the day volunteers. Volunteers will help manage the rooms and the microphones, and will help give out the badges/lanyards at start. We also need people to: bring cameras (still and moving); to help live tweet the event; and to blog before/during/after the event.

Contact me now if you can help. My email address is:
daniel [at] ciunconference [dot] org

More information about the event is on our website:
http://ciunconference.org/uk/2015
Kings College, London - 15th August 2015 – 10:00-18:00

On behalf of the organisation team, thank you for your interest, thank you (in advance) for your help, and to those of you attending, I look forward to seeing you on the 15th August 2015.

Daniel Lewis
* Chief Co-organiser of the Computational Intelligence Unconference UK 2015
* Founder & Chair of the Computational Intelligence Unconference Association (a Non-profit Unincorporated Association)
- Email: daniel [at] ciunconference [dot] org

Run up to the UK General Election 2015

When I began this blog I was intending to keep politics out of it, but here in the UK we’re in the run up to the election of national members of parliament, and it is rather exciting. I shall attempt to keep this reasonably impartial, but most importantly a rational post and one relevant to the present and future status of humanity.

The last UK general election (in 2010) was the first general election in many years to have been more than a “two horse race”. For many years we had just a two-party system of the Labour Party (who were in power from 1997 to 2010), and the Conservative Party. But in 2010, the Liberal Democrat Party (aka “LibDems”) became rapidly more popular, appealing to society who felt that the government had been treating society with too much of an authoritarian hand (and not very socially-liberal), and without openness in terms of the economy. It was very unlikely that the LibDems would have received a majority to rule the government from 2010, but it looked like they would increase their MPs and their share of the votes. The result was that Conservatives and Labour were not too far from being neck and neck, with the Conservatives winning more MPs and votes than Labour, and the LibDems came third place.

The LibDems, traditionally being both economically and societally “Centre-Left” had the option of either helping Labour to form a government, or helping the Conservatives form a government. Labour, was also, traditionally, a “Centre-Left” political party – and a coalition between the two would have been more politically similar. However, the talks broke down, and after all, more people voted for the the Conservatives than for Labour, and so the LibDems entered into talks with the Conservatives, and managed to form a government.  The Conservatives are very firmly a “Centre-Right” political party (both economically and socially). This Centre-Right-Centre-Left coalition is not so strange, the sister parties in Europe of both the LibDems and the Conservatives have been in coalition in national governments before, from what I understand they tend to offset some of their more radical policy-pledges, and try to implement basic social liberalism, and a strong capitalist private sector (i.e. neo-liberalism).

Now, whenever two or more parties come together to form a coalition, it is obvious that neither party (particularly junior member(s)) is going to be able to implement every single one of their manifesto items. An example of this is that the LibDems strongly promised to remove fees for university study (which helped the LibDems receive many student votes!), the Conservatives did not allow them to implement that policy, and in fact university fees have risen. On the other hand, the LibDems did manage to secure a referendum on the general election voting system to try to move away from First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) and implement the Alternative Vote (AV) system, which is a preferential voting system (i.e. you order the candidates by your preference, and so if your first choice doesn’t get in, then your second choice will – meaning that every vote counts, and tactical voting is prevented). This referendum was done, but unfortunately was not voted for by the general public, and we are still stuck with the FPTP system, and the general public still feels like they have  to do tactical voting (i.e. voting for their 2nd or 3rd choice, when they feel their 1st choice “will never get in”). Psshht! It just doesn’t make sense – even if AV wasn’t the best system, it would have been a step forwards towards a proportional voting system. We’ve also had Scotland holding a referendum for independence, which was voted against by the Scottish people, but the result is that Scotland is getting more and more governmental power in their Scottish Parliament (which is good in my opinion), and also the Scottish people are becoming more enthusiastic in politics.

Anyway, we’ve had a LibDem – Conservative coalition for almost 5 whole years now, and members of both parties have been increasingly irritated by their own party. In fact, I used to be a member of the Liberal Democrats, but left last year simply because they officially stated that they want to be the middle-road between Labour and the Conservatives (meaning a removal of the “left” from “Centre-Left”, becoming a purely Centrist party). The Conservatives, also, were irritated by how much the Liberal Democrat dominated coalition policy.

Now it comes to the current situation.  The fact that we had a strong three-party dialogue in parliament in the past 5-6 years, and done so in such a public way (on TV, radio, and so much on the internet, especially via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter), means that the public is seeing that politics does not have to be about two political parties battling out. It can be much more than that, there are many different political parties out there, and many independent candidates (i.e. candidates not associated with a political party).

Two entire-UK “minor” parties have received a sharp increase in members and support. The first is the Green Party, a strongly socialist (“left”), anti-austerity party with a clear environmental and sustainability agenda, and all about doing the best for the common people in an anti-authoritarian way. The other is the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which is a strongly-pro-austerity, strongly capitalist party (“right”) and strongly authoritarian with an anti-immigrant and anti-european-union agenda. Both the Greens and UKIP have fully-costed manifestos, this is the first year that UKIP have a fully-costed manifesto, and the Green Party have always had a fully-costed manifesto as far as I’ve known them! I should add that obviously the costings are different, and their approaches are very different.

The Greens now have over 60,000 members in the whole of the UK, which is more than the membership number of the LibDems and UKIP, but not as many (yet!) as Labour or the Conservatives. I should add that I am now a member of the Green Party, as they are very close to my personal political views, much more than the LibDems ever were.

However, there is another aspect of this election, and that is regionalism. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is strongly on the rise due to the new found enthusiasm of the Scots for politics. The Welsh have also seen the enthusiasm of the Scots, and have a strong desire to have more powers given to the Welsh Assembly, which means that Plaid Cymru (which is “Welsh Party” in the wonderful Welsh language, it is said in anglicised way as “Ply-d Cumree”) is also on the rise. Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru, other than being regionalist and federalist, are “centre-left” (both economically and societally), they are strongly anti-austerity and have quite a substantial belief in sustaining our environment here in the UK. In the European Parliament & Union, the SNP and Plaid Cymru sit with each other as part of the European Free Alliance (EFA), which is in union with the European Green Party and the European Pirate Party. The SNP and Plaid Cymru are therefore friendly (and understandably so) with the Green Party here in the UK. The number of SNP and Plaid Cymru candidates could mean that they could impose some kind of “centre-left” coalition in government, and if they aren’t in cabinet, then they will certain provide a strong radical, anti-austerity, centre-left voice in the opposition.

So, we therefore have a total of 7 political parties getting a good amount of media attention. The two/three traditionally “big players” being:

  • the Conservatives,
  • the Labour Party,
  • the Liberal Democrat Party,

The two other UK-wide political parties:

  • the Green Party,
  • UKIP,

We then have the two main regionalist parties:

  • The SNP in Scotland
  • Plaid Cymru in Wales

This is without even going into much detail about Northern Ireland, which has its own political parties in the left, right and centre. These could have some kind of influence in Westminster too.

This election, which will happen on the 7th May 2015, is going to be very interesting. My message to UK voters would be that this is no longer a two-party race, and you should not vote tactically, vote with both your heart and your head. If you feel that the Green Party (for example) won’t get in because Labour and the Tories are too strong in your area, don’t vote tactically because there might actually be hundreds of others in your constituency that think the same, and its only going to take vote-share change to change the elected candidate (if not this time then certainly next when people realised that the vote-share has changed). Vote with conviction and enthusiasm, and share your views. Do it rationally, and do it with the welfare of humanity in mind!

There is one final thing that I would like to add. I am saddened that candidates from all parties, but I’ve noticed particularly from the Labour Party, have become increasingly like robots. They’ll answer one question with an answer, then the next question which attempts to get different information out, they just use the same answer with the same words but perhaps in a slightly different order. Every party does this. The Labour Party does this in every answer, it feels like they have succumbed to an American approach to politics, incredibly polished but also fearful that its going to say something wrong. The Conservatives are using the word “chaos” too much. The LibDems are using the “middle-road” too much. I just wish that they could all just think for themselves, rather than churning out the output of a PR engine. Its far too materialistic for my liking.

Let’s change politics. Let’s change government. Let’s improve society!

For Freedom! For Equality! For Community!