Matthew Gaylard

Senior Project Manager
Cape Town, South Africa

About Matthew

Bio

Since 1995, I have worked at:
The Truth & Reconciliation Commission, Republic of South Africa (data analyst and computer officer)
Laragh Courseware (eLearning - technical writer)
Ward Consulting (Senior Technical Writer, Subject Matter Expert for several eLearning courses on open source software - based in Ireland)
Mozbytes Lda (Owner, IT services company, Mozambique)
Kaplan IT Learning (technical writer)
Reid Consulting (consultant, National Waste Management Strategy for SA amongst others)
Linkd Environmental Services (Senior Project Manager, National Climate Change Response Policy for SA, amongst others)

Areas of Expertise

Environment , Information Technology, Policy analysis & Development

I'm passionate about

Evolution, the environment, social justice, climate change

Talk to me about

Innovative ways of conceptualizing old problems, social justice

People don't know I'm good at

catching fish

Comments & conversations

149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jason Pontin: Can technology solve our big problems?
To continue my train of thought. As Pontin points out, hunger is not fundamentally a problem of food supply, but of distribution mechanisms. Crudely, money has failed us in that respect (Majdi's point). More generally though, the current form of market-based economies is failing us (not just in terms of food distribution, but also in terms of energy production - as Pontin points out). So why aren't we developing and adopting social networking applications that allow consumers to redirect resources to socially constructive ends on a massive scale?
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jason Pontin: Can technology solve our big problems?
I think Majdi's point is a very, very good one - although I would frame it slightly differently myself. Jason Pontin partially identifies the political and social obstacles to investment in ambitious technology projects, but there is much more to be said about that. Those problems and obstacles - which are social in nature - are the real technological challenge of our time. A small (but important) part of the solution relates to improving our physical tools. The hard part of the problem relates to improving our social tools. The internet provides a potential platform for this, but so far we have made very little progress in leveraging this. Partly it is a chicken and the egg problem - and the failure of silicon valley and its "start-up" culture that Pontin points to in his talk to shift the paradigms that inform capital investment are symptom and cause. As a parent, my great concern is whether we will begin to respond with the social innovations needed to mitigate and adapt to the environmental crises we face, foremost being climate change, in time.
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted about 3 years ago
Seth Shostak: ET is (probably) out there -- get ready
I think the reference to Christopher Columbus is unfortunate, The colonization of the Americas was accompanied by genocide on a scale that has not been seen before or since, not just in terms of numbers, but also brutality. Not that genocide is ever anything but horrific, of course. It's a story very seldom told with nearly enough clarity or honesty.
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted about 3 years ago
Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species?
Travis, when you say "Will the lower class gradually fall out of existence, no longer being able to compete for jobs, food, and shelter? " you are, of course, talking about the majority of us. And envisaging a future where we starve to death. Which is a fairly extreme dystopia. We're on on the bring of solving world hunger?! Not from what I hear. According to the world health organisation hunger is the single biggest health problem. Most scientists who study earth systems (like climate, water etc) think we are on the brink of environmental disaster, not solving world hunger.
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted about 3 years ago
Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species?
Travis, you do indeed raise some key implications. I'm not sure what you mean by "genetic perfection" though. The concept makes no sense to me. I am in no way against scientific research. I believe that knowledge is essential to our survival, which despite the 7 billion humans alive may be more precarious than most of us realize. What we have to improve dramatically is the link between intent and knowledge. And I agree that "capitalism" (for want of a better word) is part of the problem. The idea that "the market" is a magically efficient mechanism for managing social outcomes, or that it is the emergent will of the people, is fundamentally flawed and dangerous, and has had an extremely negative impact on the way that scientific research has been translated into technology.
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted about 3 years ago
Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species?
As a species, we are certainly impacting on the biosphere at significant scale. Juan brings to our attention that we are in the process of not just transforming the "external" biosphere, but are also on the brink of consciously molding the "internal" biosphere of our species. What is critical here is intent, our understanding of the complexity of living systems, and how we understand the concept of "consciously". One might say, for instance, that the economy is a human creation and is therefore a conscious product. And yet, for so many, its outcomes are so poor. And in fact, not only for our species - the impacts on other species are proving fairly disastrous too! We're great at using tools and creating - but not nearly as good at understanding the consequences, or fully appreciating the complexity of the interaction between intent and outcome. This problem is directly correlated to the complexity of the systems with which we interact. For instance, consider a tool such as fertiliser. When we consider its application within an artificially simplified model of reality, it seems a great solution to the problem of feeding millions of people. But when we apply it to the real, complex world it results in a whole lot of unintended consequences, such as large scale disruption of the nitrogen cycle. The boundary between our "internal" and "external" biospheres we now know to be illusory. The biomass of microbes, bacteria, symbiotes and parasites (alien dna) within our bodies outweighs that of "human" dna. And the interaction between our lifestyles and that internal biosphere is something we have only begun to recognise matters - let alone understand. Considering the very serious situation we face in terms of environmental sustainability, I would suggest we should be quite cautious about upping the stakes and should start by focusing carefully on questions of intent, inequality and our place within a complex living system.
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted over 3 years ago
Brian Greene: Is our universe the only universe?
Cosmology is intrinsically fascinating, and Brian Greene provides an intriguing glimpse of string theory. The question of future cosmologists confronted by an empty sky is fundamental to my mind, because this is the situation in which cosmology already sits. I don't think it impossible that these future cosmologists, based on extrapolations from observations of their physical environment, would postulate the existence of other stars and galaxies. They would have to accept the impossibility of ever observing them directly. Which seems to be our situation with respect to inflation and hence strings and mutliverses. We have pretty good resolution on the past compared to the future cosmologists, but it is not complete. The fact that these future cosmologists (and lets just accept that they are just a thought experiment) would never see the stars and galaxies that their study of physics implied exist - how does it affect the reality of these things? Is it useful to have knowledge of something you can never directly experience? It seems to me that in some fundamental sense, not only is it useful, but perhaps it is intrinsic to human consciousness. I'm not a religious man myself, but it seems likely to me that scientific cosmology and religious cosmology share common roots in this respect. The mystery of "that which is beyond the horizon" is perhaps just as much about what is going on in our heads when we formulate the mathematical constructs that underpin string theory.
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted over 3 years ago
T. Boone Pickens: Let's transform energy -- with natural gas
In fact, after having a look at the article from which you get those figures they are in fact referring to something else entirely - they are an attempt to by someone to demonstrate that NASA have been manipulating calculations of the global mean temperature anomaly to exaggerate the increase - an attempt that is comprehensively debunked in the article.
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted over 3 years ago
T. Boone Pickens: Let's transform energy -- with natural gas
Krisztian, I strongly suggest you go back to that site www.realclimate.org and perhaps read the introductory material first. The figures you are referring to are not the temperature increase per century - they are the rate at which the annual global mean temperature anomoly is increasing. In other words, there is a long term temperature trend determined over a century (it increased slightly). Observed annual global mean temperatures are above or below that *historical* baseline measurement (anomolous). In fact recently they are alarmingly and consistently above that. Which means that climate projections for what the *future* long term trends are are being confirmed by empirical evidence. ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/anomalies/annual.land.90S.90N.df_1901-2000mean.dat This site has the global annual mean temperature anomolies listed for the past 131 years (negative numbers are below the average - the fact that they are all at the start of the series should give you a big hint as to what is going on). Have a look at those figures, and tell me you're not concerned. in the last decade, 3 years were more than 1 degree above the long term average. At the start of the range, where temperatures are below the long term average, none is more than 0.5 degrees below
149841
Matthew Gaylard
Posted over 3 years ago
T. Boone Pickens: Let's transform energy -- with natural gas
It's not too late to do something, but it's too late to stop climate change happening at a level that will be costly to deal with and will cause considerable suffering. The UNFCCC website has some good information, or you could try www.realclimate.org. Politicians are not saying it is too late - in some place (like the USA) they aren't even acknowledging that it is a problem. Elsewhere (like in Europe) where they do accept there is an issue, their plans to address it still fall far short of what the scientific community says is required. We should really have begun to transition our economies decades ago, now we have to make big changes suddenly. The goal of the UNFCCC is to restrict warming to no more that 2 degree celcius this century. Currently we are not really beginning to make progress towards that goal, and are in fact still going in the wrong direction i.e. increasing rather than decreasing emissions. Remember, what we emit now stays in the atmosphere for 100+ years. If we don't start to cut emissions before 2020, a 2 degree increase no longer becomes an acheivable goal. The 2 degrees is a global average goal. In the center of a continent such as the USA or Africa, it translates into an increase of 5 to 6 degrees. Needless to say, such an increase will have a dramatic impact on ecosystems and agriculture. Which is why most African countries want a goal of no more than 1.5 degrees.