in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #280 — Relief

Polling Day in Bloomsbury, 4 July 2024
Polling Day in Bloomsbury, 4 July 2024

Work continues to be tough. Every day feels like a battle, ticking things off the to-do list and trying to keep our projects moving forward. Most of my regular working day is spent in meetings, leaving a few small gaps and the time after work to get things done like reviewing documents, preparing information and drafting communications. Sometimes I look at my diary for the week ahead and wonder how I will get to Friday evening having done all of the things I need to. Somehow it happens.

Mostly meetings. Is this normal?
Mostly meetings. Is this normal?

Trying to keep focused was supremely difficult as we went into Thursday’s General Election. I had my fingers crossed for a good outcome. I’d already voted a couple of weeks ago by post. In 2019 I voted for the Green Party in the knowledge that my constituency was going to return a Conservative MP as it had done in every election since it was created in 1950. They didn’t have a hope of winning, but I wanted to register that I saw the climate emergency as the biggest crisis that we face. This year, a boundary change meant that I am now in the newly-created Harpenden and Berkhamsted constituency. If the constituency had been around in 2019 it would also have been Conservative, so initially I didn’t have much hope that it would change. Tactical voting websites showed me that the Liberal Democrats would be the ones most likely to topple the Conservatives here, so they got my vote. And they won, spectacularly. Victoria Collins is our new MP.

On Thursday night I went to bed at my usual time but had a restless sleep, knowing that the election result would be revealed to me when I woke up. A few times I stirred, wondered what time it was, checked my watch, saw it was the middle of the night and resisted the temptation to pick up my phone, rolling over to try and get back to sleep. The exit poll and the early declarations in Sunderland had spooked me, with the far-right party company Reform UK being predicted to win 13 out of our 650 seats. What if the poll was wrong and they ended up with many more? I expelled a giant sigh of relief when they only ended up with five. My hope is that now they are in the spotlight, needing to meet parliamentary standards and actually do things for the constituents that they represent, they will be seen for what they are. I feel so sorry for the constituencies that elected them.

Watching Keir Starmer on the steps of 10 Downing Street, and in his press conference the next day, a feeling of relief washed over me. There is a lightness knowing that we have competent, decent, grown-up people running the country once more. I haven’t felt like this for a very long time. There is hope again, where it has been so long since there has been reason to be hopeful. Of course, the new government won’t get everything right and I’m sure they will have their own demons. There are very difficult times ahead immediately. But it’s the turn of a page and I am absolutely here for it.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had the regular programme and project meetings.
  • Met with two of our vendors to discuss a ‘change tracker’ for construction works we plan to do at one of our offices.
  • Had to move our programme Steering Committee meeting out by a few days as we didn’t have enough attendees. I’m grateful for the additional time to put the material together.
  • Took part in a final review of the plan to vacate one of our offices for essential works and to set up temporary space for us to work from.
  • Met with our management team to review our collective travel schedule for the rest of the year.
  • Met with our Procurement team to discuss our planned technical/AV fit-out of two rooms in a shared area of one of our buildings.
  • Completed work on the documents proposing how the rooms will be fitted out and run from a technical, financial and operational perspective and sent this to the company with whom we share the space.
  • Had a walkthrough of the latest financial estimates for one of our big construction projects.
  • Met with the technical representative from a vendor whose product we want to trial as part of our meeting room set-up. The product can exist completely outside of our network, which makes life much easier from a cybersecurity perspective.
  • Had another discussion about mandatory compliance call recording in Teams and the options available.
  • Took part in an interview for a technical role in our Johannesburg team.
  • Met with a colleague to brainstorm our approach to document reorganisation across our business unit and how we can use it to streamline our client on-boarding processes.
  • Met with our whole team to discuss the company’s intent to push on with a ‘return to office’ agenda.
  • Had my regular check-in with our technology research and advisory vendor.
  • Caught up with a colleague in Johannesburg. It was interesting to learn that while she is in great demand as a public speaker, she doesn’t like doing it due to the burden of anxiety before and after.
  • Enjoyed this week’s Learning Hour session where a colleague fed back about their experience at the Salesforce World Tour.
  • Had a Random Coffee with a brilliant colleague who studied journalism, joined our organisation as a PA and is now managing clients.
  • Ran our fortnightly team meeting as our usual meeting chair was on holiday.
  • Met with a young boy who was visiting us for his work experience. I was almost the last person on his timetable, so I tried not to bore him by going over the same ground that he would have heard from everyone else. I think that most of the experience is not about the content but more about interacting with adults in a professional setting.
  • Opted for indoor bike training this weekend due to the dreadful weather. The rain made for a brilliant British Grand Prix at Silverstone, but I wasn’t going cycling in it.
  • Enjoyed a weekend of TV sport, with the key F1 sessions being timed perfectly around the Euro 2024 football.
  • Did a bit of preparation for hosting next week’s Album Club. I think I know what I’m going to play, but it’s a bad time to find out that my CD player is on the blink.



There’s a real need for a certain humility here. I always think if you hear a confident pronouncement from somebody that AI could never be conscious or AI is conscious, then I think we should be pretty skeptical.

There are no grounds for extreme confidence either way here. The consequences of being wrong about the fact of the matter, about AI actually being conscious are huge, which is another reason we need to respect this humility. If AI is on a path to being conscious or already slightly conscious as Ilya Sutskever puts it, then we face a moral and ethical catastrophe of kind of unprecedented proportion, and that sounds very dramatic, but I think it’s warranted.

As soon as something is conscious, it has moral considerability. It has its own interests. It plausibly has the potential to experience suffering, and it may be suffering of a kind that we won’t or constitutively unable to recognize because of the very different constitution of these systems. If we artificially bring new forms of suffering into existence through developing real artificial consciousness, well, that is, with capital letters, a very bad thing indeed. So I think it’s really ethically crucial, but epistemologically, which is say, how will we know highly uncertain situation.




Next week: A delayed Steering Committee, and two Album Clubs.

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