Up until the end of last year, I had thoroughly enjoyed giving talks, lectures and keynotes. I had a set of three talks about creativity, accelerating ideas and thinking beyond content that I adapted and used for business events and I think they worked very well. Lately, however, I have become slightly frustrated with the format as well as the speaking circuit as a whole and felt the urge to change what I was doing dramatically and focus solely on my Black Operatives talks.
The clandestine agency.
Creating The Black Operatives Department, a fictional, dystopian agency, gave me the freedom to explore darker areas of contemporary culture and technology by toying with timelines and made up stories. The talks started life as one-off pieces written specifically for the republica conference in Berlin and have grown into a body of work with lots of fictional products, characters and backstory.
A brief history of The Black Operatives Department for those of you new to the talks.
The Snowden Pitch – 2014.
I introduced the Black Operatives in my 2014 republica talk “The Snowden Pitch”, a talk that was set in 2008. The conceit was a Black Operatives Department pitch to 4 senior members of the NSA and an advertising campaign called “An Everyday Bond”. The proposal: unleash a whistleblower into the world and guarantee the NSA and their surveillance products maximum visibility within the espionage community. The talk explored the Snowden case as a communications campaign and the world described, defined and manipulated by data. It predicted a cold war renaissance, cyber-war and post-factual media manipulation.
Purpose of Entry – 2015
Set in 2018, “Purpose of Entry” explored the future Europe’s political shift to the right. The Black Operatives had been briefed by “the Coalition of the Right” to produce an algorithm that could control the newly developed, sovereign national internets and fulfil the terms of the “Wasteland Act”. The product they developed was called the Real-time, Algorithmic, Chemical, Hallucinogenic, Enhancement, Lady, or R.A.C.H.E.L. for short. R.A.C.H.E.L. turned the human body in a tracking pixel, spoke directly to the user and permitted access to certain parts of the digital world. What could possibly go wrong? Written pre-Brexit, “Purpose of entry” explored the idea of Neo-Orwellianism and predicted Europe’s shift the right, e-borders, Brexit and the rise of Bots.
Love, the machine and the ghost – 2017
Set in 2019. Love the Machine, and the Ghost explores a world that is controlled by an Algorithm – R.A.C.H.E.L. The talk explores the relationship between humans, machines and programmes while introducing products and themes such as Hot Homing, Shopping Is Freedom and something which I have called Echospheres.
The newest and darkest talk is called The Passing. Set in 2059, we meet Johnston, a Coalition “Beamter”, who is giving a room full of fifteen-year-olds an introduction to adulthood, influence and preparing them for The Passing Ceremony.