A Historical “What If?” Empire, The Analytical Engine & Lady Ada Byron Lovelace

Who was AAL (as she referred to herself)?

Perspective is a wonderful thing.

The Colonial Carve-Up

We must remember the context of the times in which these Great Leaps Forward were being made: the Industrial Revolution, the subjugation of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of millions of innocent people that fuelled it.

Europe was busy carving up the African continent at the time and using it’s military might to destroy great, ancient cities upon which its civilisation were built. Scores of African cities, libraries and centres of learning were razed to the ground by the armies of England, France and Germany.

The Scramble For Africa

Our Forgotten History

Malicious, deliberate acts of erasure have Black people, in the absence of records, endlessly re-inventing the wheel – unaware that we pioneered the same fields hundreds and even thousands of years before. The achievements of Ada Lovelace, as mighty as they are, must then be placed into the historical context of a world in which Black flesh and bones were (and still are) expendable.

A slave ship

We were quite simply the consumables that powered the railways, steam engines and funded Brunel’s terrific feats of engineering.


Survival, Resistance, Mathematics

We would do well to remember, if we will, that modernity is built upon a legacy – one of a mathematics and binary principles that emerged on African shores long before Europe emerged blinking from the Dark Ages into the light of the Renaissance. It’s legacy we must build upon if we are to forge our technological independence.

Bet Against The House

Our learning should always reflect who we are as Black people.

Could it be that repetition and pattern embedded in our music, art, architecture – and hair – give us cultural aptitudes pre-disposed to computational thinking?

From *African Fractals*

Horrible diversity figures in the science and technology fields reflect society, not our ability.

I’m with the underdog. I intend to bet against the house, but then, I am that way.

Code, Chuck Berry & The Next Sh*t

Remixing, Re-imagining

I returned, jubilant!, from a small-but-perfectly-formed conference in The Smoke to a sadness. While we listened, dialogued and wondered whether science could be decolonised – an expression of similar movements on-campus around the world – Chuck Berry died. Damn. Seriously, why man? I’ve tired of asking.

The need to innovate and make that next sh*t is a primary drive in Black cultural production.

We invent new forms, and re-imagine the old:

The same is true of all forms to which African-descent people have access. The question is one of access. The unseen forces, the Dark Matter of Black cultural production bends all to its will, re-making a thing in its own image.

Why would it be different with code?

If #BlackTwitter Wrote A Black Twitter

The same forces are at work in technological space.

Black Twitter is a force. It’s also not particularly well understood by those who aren’t a part of it. The term is used to describe a large network of black Twitter users and their loosely coordinated interactions, many of which accumulate into trending topics due to the network’s size, interconnectedness, and unique activity.

Rock’n’roll was once so characteristically “Negro” it was called “race music” and ignored. Race music. Here is your daily reminder that Black people did rock first.

There’s an opportunity here. I think that Black hackers twist things and invent and bend ones-and-zeroes to their will, the way everything else must obey our cultural vodun.

Uhuru on decks

The point is rhetorical: not to recreate the old, but invent what comes next. We are a force – under-served and under-valued, as per. To assume that coders focused on Black audiences are bound to be ignored, and the things we imagine must be derivative, marginal efforts, doomed for the digital knacker’s yard is off. I say: let’s form all-Black hacker collectives and throw down. I say: what we make blows the fuck up, like always.

Maintaining Control

The problems I see down the road are different: how do maintain control of the fruits of our labour? The issue is so persistent, it bears thinking about now.

The premise of Jack Hamilton’s deep new study Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination seems like something that’s been on rock history’s tongue for a long time without ever quite leaving it. Chuck Berry, a black man with a guitar, had been a rock and roll archetype in 1960, but by the end of the decade Jimi Hendrix would be seen as rock’s odd man out for being… a black man with a guitar. How did that occur? “Tracing the Rock and Roll Race Problem” an interview in Pitchfork.


The relationship between Europe and Africa, white culture to Black, is that of vampire and victim.

Colonialism is the parasitical asset-stripping of our resources – material, creative, cultural.

Serving the computing needs of Black audiences – domestically and in the Diaspora – is also a hedge against the under-employment faced by computer science graduates who can’t get jobs in Silicon Valley, or face hostile working environments once they do. Given all of that, I’m optimistic. I think we can do this.

the #hashtag in black struggle

a brave protester

Image: Akinyemi Oludele

People are kicking back against systemic oppression. Those hard days, marching against deaths in police custody, I wondered if this day would ever come. Technology has networked our minds; the internet has folded experience in on itself and allowed us to share our experiences – and practice. Hashtags allow us to connect our experiences, to join Walter Scott and Eric Garner to Rekia Boyd and Sandra Bland. The struggle is the same as it ever was, but we can more easily compare notes. We know what to do, now. That’s the difference.

Moss Code, The Movie

It’s the weekend! You’ve gone to the cinema. Got popcorn? Check. The lights go down, a silence descends… If Moss Code were a Brit flick, what kind of film would it be? A trailer from the award-winning film production company Riverhorse TV about our mission.

It’s based on this post.

Dearly Beloved.

“Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today to get through this thing called… Life.”

Prince, Let’s Go Crazy (1984)

a prince joke


Life After Death

I had a terrible weekend. Didn’t everyone? It’s not all bad, though. There are some lovely write-ups around the web, so won’t repeat what’s already been said. How many times can one say “genius” before it gets old?

What’s Going On?

Great artists are fearless. Prince wandered through the same politically-aware, sexually-charged waters that the great Marvin Gaye did a generation before.

Stories will surface, like Questlove?’s crushing-but-hilarious tale:

Purple Haze

Maybe Prince was important to me because he allowed me to dial-in to Hendrix, re-connecting rock music to my identity. I couldn’t believe it to see him in Purple Rain; my hero re-incarnate, reborn, resplendent. Black cultural production is nothing if not constant innovation and a breaking with the old, although there may be darker reasons for such creative fury.

jimi hendrix

via View From The Mirror

Diggin’ In The Crates

For the eagle-eyed, nuggets like this will turn up alongside, perhaps, the vault of unreleased music he is rumoured to have in the basement at Paisley Park. Here’s a wonderful interview from 1985. I love it.

Mostly though, I’m going to dance my arse off and party like it’s 1999. Thanks for the music, brother.

The Trouble With FutureEverything

I felt a right mardy bastard filling in the feedback form after the show – after all, everybody had worked so wonderfully hard, bless them! The fizzing volunteer who’d asked me to do the always-boring paperwork was visibly deflated after talking to me, making me feel a killer of tiny, gorgeous creatures. My review was unsparing – but she did ask.

What’s The Issue, Buzzkill?

Well, let me tell you the issue. This year’s theme was climate change, but what kind of host throws a party and fails to invite it’s most important guests? Bar the inclusion of Lemn Sissay as Magical Negro, both panels and audience were overwhelmingly light, bright and damn-near white.

scene from apocalypse now

Is Lionel Richie Once, Twice, Three Times A Lady?

There Was Not A Single Black Woman Delegate In Attendance At The Entire Event

Need I say more? Not one. I find it astonishing that one can organise an event tackling issues of sustainability and climate change, but those who make up the majority of the planet’s population – the dreaded “people of colour” – are not represented in significant numbers – or in any numbers at all. Did they think nobody would notice? How can an event like that be relevant?

race by numbers

Amazing conversations that might have been – like how the scarcity mentality of Europeans leads to eco-system destruction – were left wanting.

FutureEverything As Technological Colonialism

berlin conference, 1884

The Scramble For Africa, via Wandering Eyes

Technology conferences are displays of white European power and as such, serve their constituents flawlessly. Those constituents are white people. The panels are white people. The event was full of white people talking to other white people about the rest-of-the-world-as-object. We’ve seen this story before.

Diversity: Eat Your Greens

magic trick

Diversity: you don’t care about it. I don’t give a fuck if you claim to. It’s seen as a moralistic distraction from the fun things – like dutifully munching on greens when your angry mother told you “No chocolate unless you eat your salad!” The data tells a different tale with diverse teams out-performing all others – but be careful here, because I probably mean something different by “diversity” than you do. FutureEverything want to eat all the chocolate – and I get it – but bowel movements are better for a mouthful of lettuce. Unsexy advice, I know. This year’s event was technological colonialism in motion – but Your Half-Assed Diversity Initiatives Aren’t Going to Cut It In 2016.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The panels.

the panels

For ***** sake. Really?

Not Your Magical Negro

I’m tired. I no longer want to be included. I’m not here to make up the numbers. I don’t want to turn up at opportune moment: a “Magical Negro”, like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, designed to help white people find their moral conscience, only to disappear again at the end, usually through design or death.

To my friends at FutureEverything, I say: “Don’t worry about it. Everything’s cool.” You’re not any better or worse than any other technology company, festival or media platform in the space. You all perform abysmally – but it’s all good. I’m still that guy you can let onto at a party. I’m still the one-Black-friend you know. Eeeveryone knows me. You’re not like those other white people, who only know that one Black guy – John, I think his name is – the cleaner. Or is he security? It’s so easy to get these things mixed up! Modern life, eh?

White people mostly hang out with white people, and only know other white people. My god, there’s even a documentary that talks about this in brilliant detail called (you guessed it!) White People:

I don’t do funny speeches, won’t do a star turn to exit stage left and leave everybody with a warm, fuzzy feeling. What if you’re about to organise a tech event in 2017 but feel really bad after reading this rant? I have the answer.

Moss Code Vs. The Illuminati

all-seeing eye

Image: Filip Filkovic

The government has thrown public services to the dogs. Adult education – so key, so vital – has been cut to the bone. This is the scenery. Is it possible to rock up in Moss Side with a laptop and big ideas and expect it to run smoothly? Is it?

Into the gap vacated by the State, where infrastructure and law centres and libraries should be, tales of Illuminati conspiracy run rampant.

When I first realised the anti-science whispering that proliferates on social media is taken seriously by many, I bristled – but who should take a bullet? Not ordinary people, struggling to make sense of the world while on the run between benefit sanctions and food banks. I have asked:

How does a community that had really been the object of scientific and medical scrutiny for generations — with really negative outcomes — come to see science and technology as a positive thing, or something that can be used for self-knowledge and liberation?

I now understand that this is an opportunity for discussion and broader, better teaching. Here’s an example of the confusion fermenting in private WhatsApp groups and other such channels:


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