An illustration of an iceberg, most of which is beneath the surface of the sea. Above: Events and behaviour. Below: Systems.

Why Open Systems Lab exists, and what we’re trying to do.

To live at the beginning of 2021 is to live with a constant feeling of powerlessness in the face of huge challenges and weird contradictions.

As a society, we have the technology — and the will — to avert climate catastrophe and transition to a zero carbon, zero-waste economy. And…

This is a written version of a talk given for Civic Square’s ‘Department of Dreams’ event on Friday 19th June, 2020.

I heard a line recently by an American poet called Theodore Roethke, and it has kept coming back to me ever since.

“In a dark time, the eye begins…

In the coming months there will be many conversations about what governments everywhere can learn from COVID-19, and what they can do in future to be better prepared for crises.

The list will — I hope — include very wide questions about social resilience, health infrastructure, internet infrastructure, monetary policy…

An image of people building a zero-carbon house using the WikiHouse system

‘A new social contract’ — Part 4

“People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” – Terry Pratchett

A diagram can be a dangerous thing. The moment we see the world differently, we have a new tool to engage with it differently. And…

‘A New Social Contract’ Part 3

At any given time in history, the leading edge of technology is surrounded by a noisy crowd of startups and salespeople, whose salary essentially relies on giving you the impression that they know something that you don’t.

Like a flock of seagulls in the…

A New Social Contract, Part 2

“We are all are immigrants in time, immigrants from an earlier world, living in an age essentially different from anything we knew before” — Margaret Mead

The politics of the 20th century were defined as the battle between two opposing ideas: capitalism and socialism…

Redesigning Democracy, Part 1

On the morning of Friday 8th of May 2015, the United Kingdom woke up, sleepily rolled over, collectively switched on its phone, and sat up in bed, blinking in disbelief.

The Labour party, having expected to mount a close challenge to David Cameron’s Conservatives in the…

Alastair Parvin

Systems designer. Co-founder Open Systems Lab.

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