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Down to Bournemouth for the annual Silicon Beach conference last week. Two days of great speakers, and no Dave Birss. Which was weird, because within minutes of arriving at the speakers’ dinner I was accosted and called Dave by six people consecutively. Total count over two days: 11 – including one by Nadya Powell, who said out loud, in front of the audience, she’d seen Dave at the dinner.

No Nadya, that was me.

Anyway, the conference. As you’d expect of a two-day speaking bonanza, it was a conference of two halves. Not just in the literal sense, but in the metaphorical sense as well.

Day one was upbeat, a celebration of the art of creativity and advertising and the future – or, indeed, of the possible futures. It was Chris Thorpe talking unashamedly about educating through digital entertainment systems – or 3D printers, as others call them. Day one was talks from the likes of a very hungover Mark Adams about how humans, creativity and the connections between the two would see the world made a better place.

Overall, is made me feel like this:


Day two, though. Well, that was a very different kind of day.

Gone was the ebullient chatter and in came the dystopian viewpoint. We were told, to put it mildly, we were fucked as an industry, a culture, and a race. Or were we?

There was a chink of light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. This GIF was, for me, the turning point:


Yes, it’s a cruel kick to the world of creativity and advertising; however, it doesn’t fall over. It skitters and struggles to keep its composure, yet recover it does. And thankfully, from then on we got back to celebratory ideas, thoughts and stories, in particular Rina Atienza’s beautifully told personal journey.

It’s fitting that James Caig, the ‘headline act’ – his words, said firmly with tongue in cheek – talked about perspectives. Because there were two clear perspectives to take from Silicon Beach: we should celebrate creative thinking, craft and, yes, even advertising. But we must also be aware of the creep of poorly thought through ideas, technology that leads rather than supports, and allowing machines to be put first when it comes to learning.

As Tracey Follows said in her rousing talk: there is more than one future, there are many possible futures. Which one is the preferable future? That’s up to you.