Evidence-based Tweets will SAVE the WORLD - and your waistline
'They like the sound of the coral reefs exploding. The neoliberal b-'
The ¡Bong! Interview As every entrepreneur reaches mid-life, it’s natural that one’s thoughts begin to turn to one’s one’s “legacy”. Here, the Bongster has an impressive list of achievements to inspire future generations.
I have made losing huge amounts of money not just respectable, but mandatory. I have redefined work as leisure. I have brought artisanal tripe back onto tastesetters' palates. I have kept Colombia’s export sector alive, through some pretty dark days.
What a rich legacy of inspirational memes!
But as the song goes, Is That All There Is?. Have we trod lightly upon Earth, taking our shoes and socks off first? Is there more to the Internet than sending pictures of our genitalia to strangers and making fun of UKIP? Can we put the two together? What can we do to ensure tomorrow's trustafarians enjoy the same access to catapults and startup grants that today's Shoreditch enterpreneurs enjoy?
As I pondered these thoughts my assistant มาลัย (which means “Garland of Flowers” in Thai) pointed me to an extraordinary website.
It's called Live From Golgafrincham and it's based on a quite inspirational concept – “Tweeting Truth To Power With Evidence”. I sat down for a Snapchat with one of the founders, Marcus Toynboyalé, so he could explain where sustainability meets the social brain.
Bong: So who or what are you at LFG?
Toynboyalé: LFG came together in 2011 to fill the neuroscience-shaped gap in evidence-based policy making. Today, networked civil society has become a force equal to party politics. We call this new phenomenon "dot.orgism".
What we do is devise strategies for priming the brain to become the muscle for change; clearing a psychological space for a new generation of activists, alone if they have to be, going furiously at their touchpads, swiping, clicking, dabbing and poking away to reach a powerfully intense endpoint of cognitive awareness and release. This has never existed before – and it’s been disastrous!
Bong: Do you ever get the feeling that each new iPad seems to be a little bit less exciting than the last? We’ve all become so materialistic. Should we just give up and turn our luxury lifestyle-workspaces into caves?
Toynboyalé: Yes, it feels like we’re doomed sometimes, ballooning CO2 emissions, ballooning mental heath problems, ballooning stomachs and chests but even now at this late stage we can collectively nudge one another around.
It’s not about turning back and giving up. Why give up when there’s so much to intervene in?
Bong: I feel better already. You guys have certainly raised my awareness. For example, before I discovered LfG, I didn’t know the catastrophic effect that fracking had on coral reefs. I mean, what the FUCK are they doing fracking under reefs?
Toynboyalé: That’s typical of the fossil fuel industries. They deliberately seek out the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, and frack right underneath them. All because, they say, they like the sound of the coral exploding. The neoliberal bastards.
Bong: That’s appalling.
Toynboyalé: Yes, and even worse, they go home on bank holidays. That’s when the hacktivist community is at its strongest. All the most effective citizen action takes place around bank holidays – like Climate Camp. We’ve tried negotiating with them, but it’s impossible. They’re not there.
Bong: What particularly caught my eye was your rallying cry for evidence-based activism. What could the great historical revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Bob Crow have learned from you, the young data generation?
Toynboyalé: Well, key point: Che and Bob’s revolutions failed, so they could have learned trends, principle component analysis, P-values, randomised control trials and a respect for the maths. Or at least pretended to.
Bong: I am a supporter of “small government but large catapults”, and thanks to the Conservatives, finally, the stigma of an entrepreneur asking for a "hand up" is disappearing. I am delighted to see you are almost 100 per cent government funded, and that you are giving government a voice.
Toynboyalé: It needs a voice, Steve – or rather, it needs to clear its throat. It’s actually got a voice - it just hasn’t known how to use it for a long time. It’s a bit like, to use a medical analogy, a stroke victim, needing physio and speech therapy to get back into action. Civil society, concerned scientists and academics – we’re the intensive post-trauma care that government has needed.
We receive 92 per cent of our money from the European Commission via the Department of Social and Environmental Affairs and its Office for Environmental and Social Council Support’s Special Fund for Behavioural Insight.
Bong: And like Bong Ventures, you show great expertise in channelling public money to your cause.
Toynboyalé: Government is helping us to help itself. Ultimately, this becomes a slingshot for change. So by accepting funding from the source you’re trying to change you’re simultaneously primed to cause change but also embody it. It’s already change, right there. That’s change. It’s working in the belly of the beast, with Gaviscon as a project partner.
Bong: This is brilliant. And you’re right at the cutting edge of neuroscience discoveries, which is very exciting.
Toynboyalé: We use a quote on our site from Jonathan Rowson, head of the social brain project. It sums up our position neatly (paraphrasing): “Individually we’re automatic, primed from animal origin to repeat unhealthy rituals but together, as a crowd-awareness ripples through our social brain, that changes. We’re the little voice in your head that says: STOP!”
Bong: Can you leave my millions of entrepreneurial thought-leaders with just one simple meme?
Toynboyalé: People are out there enjoying themselves, without a thought for Planet Earth. It’s our job to stop them doing it. And we can do this together!
Steve Bong (official title: Lord Bong of #businessmodel) is the founder of Bong Ventures, an early stage investor and incubator focussing on innovative new technology start-ups based in Shoreditch, London. When he's not helping rear the next generation of business models, Steve enjoys parties, foreign travel, extreme cuisine, Open Data and draws his inspiration from Ayn Rand and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He advised (then hired) No.10 policy guru Rohan Silva on mindfulness and innovation, Lily Cole on innovation in giving, Mark Zuckerberg on the Perfect IPO, the Republic of Kazakhstan on emergent social media strategies, LOCOG on brand enforcement, and imagineered the Olympic Opening Ceremony with Danny Boyle, Shoreditch's #guardian coffee coffee shop with Jemima Kiss, and was the social media consultant for Edward Snowden and Lady Thatcher’s Funeral. A recent attempt to arm the Syrian rebels with iOS7 sadly failed, however. At the personal invitation of Kim Jong Un, he is a strategic consultant on the Nextification of North Korea. Steve wants to pivot the BBC into the 22nd Century, blue-skying its hugely successful Digital Media Initiative, and advises the UK Government on icon design and the new National Curriculum. He favours Small Government but Large Catapults, and wants more taxpayers engaging in Ambient Crowdsourcing.
Don't just SIT THERE! SIT THERE AND CLICK! Steve seeks attractive hacktivist grrrls under 25 years of age for sustainable awareness raising. Apply via Twitter: @BongVentures