A Mother-Daughter Experience From Canada and Armenia at the Horasis Global Meeting

Horasis

Photo C.G. DePineres

What is Horasis?

Horasis is a global visions community dedicated to inspiring our future.  Pre-covid, events designed to foster cross sector and cross country dialogue were held all over the world.  I was to attend my first global meeting in Cascais, Portugal in March 2020.  In preparation for the 4-day in-person event, I researched fellow panelists and topics.   I was amazed and impressed by this diverse, global community. I couldn’t imagine a more fun, intellectually engaging way to spend a week in a beautiful city.

The 2020 Horasis Extraordinary Meeting

On October 1, 2020, my daughter and I participated in the Horasis meeting gone virtual.  All attendees are also panelists.  Panelists are sought out by the chairman and founder, Dr. Frank-Jürgen Richter, a former Director of the World Economic Forum.

horasis

Frank reached out to me on Linked-In over a year ago. He thought I had a unique perspective to offer.  I had never heard of Horasis prior and was honoured to be “found” by Frank. As Horasis was seeking more young participants, I introduced Frank to my daughter, Sashka Avanyan, a young social entrepreneur, whom he subsequently invited as well.  Sashka and I were excited about the unusual experience of participating in a conference at the same time.

Virtual Horasis

Screen-shot of the Run the World platform

Screen-shot of the Run the World platform

Alas, the pandemic cancelled a beautiful experience in Portugal.  Instead, Sashka and I were confined to our current locations, me in Canada and Sashka in Armenia.

Horasis shifted to a 17 hour, virtual conference. There were over 900 attendees speaking across 134 panels, 11 plenaries, special addresses and multiple virtual receptions.  Not a single session ran over time.  In virtual conferences you are kicked out immediately when the clock runs out!  We all experienced and witnessed being cut-off mid-sentence.

Meet My Panel – Developing Deep Learning while in Isolation

Horasis

Photo, Horasis panelist, Joan O’Donnell

Panelists from left to right:  Top row: Toufi Saliba, CEO Toda.Network, USA, me, Mark Mueller-Eberstein, CEO, Adgetec Corporation, USA (Panel Chair). Bottom row:  Andrew McGregor, Founder, Oomvelt Research, USA, Lila Tretikov, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft, USA.

The Deep Learning Discussion

This panel touched on the questions:

  • How can we ensure the access to data to develop deep learning?
  • How can we judge the results of these systems if we remain isolated?
  • Are we educated well enough to judge?
  • What is Deep Learning from the human perspective?

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that configures computers to perform tasks through experience.  In contrast to my fellow panelists who are all working directly with AI, I provided the human perspective on deep learning.

Human Learning

Human Learning

Photo Ed Robertson

Human deep learning can be defined as the ability to quickly master complicated information or learn a cognitively demanding skill. This learning creates value for you and for the world.

Depth is Eroding

horasis mind equity

Photo Sharon McClutcheon

Learning these days is at risk, as pointed out in Maggie Jackson’s book, Distraction, with an entire chapter dedicated to the erosion of depth in our pursuit of knowledge. We are often ceding control over learning to a digital environment. We are often not the master of our tools.  We are sometimes abdicating responsibility for learning to Google. Our heads are in screens, disconnected from our bodies.

Holistic Human Learning

Human learning at the deepest levels is holistic and, in addition to the intellectual, thinking, cognitive processing that occurs, we also process data from the five relationships that we are always in.  These five relationships are always there, whether we notice them or not.

Human Learning Horasis

Photo NeONBRAND

These are

  1. Our relationship with ourselves, degree of self awareness of physical and emotional states,
  2. Our physical relationship with Earth, as our bodies are attached through gravitational pull,
  3. Our relationship with the visible social body – other humans we are interacting with in a given moment,
  4. Our relationship with the invisible social field – the level of relational connectedness, history, opinions, affinity,
  5. Our relationship with the space, which now includes both our physical and our virtual spaces.

As humans, when we pay attention, or just notice, the five relationships, we are able to gather data from these five relationships. This allows us to tap into more than just intelligence. We have a holistic perception of our learning environment which enables both knowledge and wisdom.

Will AI ever be able to capture data on these levels?

Knowledge without Wisdom

An African proverb says, “Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand”. I believe we must acknowledge that human learning is at risk due to the emphasis on knowledge acquisition and little time spent on cultivating wisdom. We can start to protect human learning by protecting our attention. We can enable balance between the digital and the physical, the human and the machine.

It is not just about data & intellect, it is about tapping into the aggregate of the five relationships with self, Earth, social body, social field, and spaces.   Collective wisdom arises when we pay attention to the social body and the social field, as defined above.

Meet Sashka’s Panel – Post Covid Cluster Hubs

Panelists from left to right:  Top row: Sashka Avanyan, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Creopia Productions, Armenia,  Manfred Zeuch, VP, Concordia University, Edmonton, Canada, Christian Tidona, Founder, BioMed X Institute, Germany.  Bottom row:  Evgeniya Shamis, CEO, Sherpa S Pro, Russia, Pina Hirano, CEO, Asteria, Japan, Jonathan Greechan, Co-Founder, Founder Institute, USA (Chair).

Sashka

This panel touched on the questions:

  • In Covid, close socializing is not allowed – what will innovators do?
  • Will they thrive at a distance, or will they atrophy?
  • What new work mode can be substituted?

Decentralized Clusters in Armenia

Sashka, age 24, provided the perspective of decentralized innovation clusters in Armenia.

“Specifically for me, the most important thing for social entrepreneurship development is decentralization. Cluster hubs, especially in rural areas, are extremely important for growth.”

“When the pandemic hit, we gained an understanding of the fact that a decentralized world is actually a more connected world.”

Rural Area Challenges

“One downside of working in a rural area in a pandemic is the inability to meet in physical spaces to train our beneficiaries who are students. This is a poverty stricken area with average income at $100 a month. Our students don’t have the means to buy a computer that will run the software they need to learn. Now we’re trying to think of mobile models of access to hardware so students can learn creative skills. So, while social business clientele is growing in the pandemic, now our students are suffering significantly.  So we have to adapt, adapt, adapt.”

Adapting also in War

Photo Sashka Avanyan, in Vanadzor, Armenia

Photo Sashka Avanyan, in Vanadzor, Armenia

“Last week I participated in Civil Match, an online program connecting Caucasian projects with European partners. During speed networking I connected with a German, Azeri and Georgian partner. Now we’re collaborating on a mobile truck project which will have all the hardware needed to learn creative skills, traveling through three regions.  At the same time we already realize the difficulty of being so distant. The project is large and intense. We need team bonding which is very difficult through virtual only connections. And since last week we have the added complexity of war breaking out between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

Digital and Physical Balance

I don’t think that that means that we should accept only the positives of virtual connection as the norm. There is no way that we’re going to be able to create additional decentralized clusters in rural areas unless the physical connection is there as well. Moving forward, balance between digital and physical is going to be the name of the game.

In Closing

Horasis was my first virtual conference. It was a great learning experience, full of new connections and insights.  The virtual conference is a great alternative when physical gathering is forbidden. At the end of the day, however, I felt digital overwhelm.  Further, there was no sense of a real ending to the conference, with people lingering about, exiting the space in pairs or triads, saying farewell or moving-on to a restaurant or stroll on the beach.  The streaming of panels and plenaries just stopped, leaving me in a sudden, empty void in virtual space, returning to my surroundings in my empty home office in Canada.

There was the sensation of having participated in a vibrant collective, together with my daughter. Our shared experience, while it intersected in the virtual world, was vastly different because of where our feet were physically touching the ground. I was in safe, peaceful, mask-wearing Canada, worrying about Sashka in the beautiful mountains of an insecure, uncertain, at-war Armenia.  And watching either of our panels, you would never guess the underlying dialogues going on in our heads about the realities on the ground.

Postscript

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think*?”…that on October 2, 2020, on the front page of The Globe and Mail, we learned that Turkish-made drones that included Canadian made Wescam gear, invaded the airspace of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.  I stress, Armenia’s capital…..this was not the airspace of the disputed territory of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).  Wescam is owned by U.S. parent L3Harris Wescam and the technology is manufactured in Burlington, Ontario, 45 minutes from my house.

You can reach Michelle Moore at .  mindequity.ca

You can reach Sashka Avanyan at creopiaproductions.com

*Quote from the song “Ironic, Alanis Morissette, Canadian-American singer, songwriter