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I have lost a friend

December 27, 2007

I had to change my passport over the Christmas break. I handed in the various forms to the local post office on the 19th December and the brand new document arrived today, the 27th which is pretty impressive service - less than three working days given Christmas. Seeing the old one, a faithful companion, battered and abused, stained with beer in Auckland, gilt lettering on the front cover worn to the point of illegibility, brought back memories. It now has its wings clipped to prevent reuse and I will miss it.

I got it just after I left IBM just over three years ago and despite getting the maximum number of pages it is so full of visas and customs stamps that there is no capacity for 2008. The pages with their stamps and stickers tell the story of three frantic years of activity and travel getting Cognitive Edge established.

Now I have a blank document, I will appear a novice when I next travel, the respect and sometimes sympathy of homeland security will be no more! The very pretty pictures of raptors and wading birds that decorate each page of the new shiny usurper are small compensation. And it gets worse, my last photograph looked professorial, this one appears to be of a tramp rescued from the streets over Christmas, much the worse for wear.

Artifacts are important for stories, a digital environment is not the same. My old passport will now go in a drawer with my mother's passport from her study in a German University in the years immediately after the second world war. The stamps from the various occupying powers tell a profound story in their own right, let alone that of a working class girl, first in the history of the family to go to University and only there due to a scholarship. She wanted to study German and decided to go to Germany to do so, a few short years after hiding in a bomb shelter in Cardiff as a school girl. My father's documents from his service in India in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, with vaccinations, mess bills and the day to day flotsam and jetsam of life on the North West Frontier (topical as British Troops are still there) are in the same drawer. Also ration books, school prizes and other artifacts whose age is evident from their patina.

I wonder what the artifacts will be for the current generation? The electronic age is fleeting and creates no lasting representation, but surely something physical will be preserved?

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About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.
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