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Digital Art Weeks International, whose exhibition “Hybrid Highlights” was held in Seoul last year, just published their free book, On Science, On Art, On Society: Interviews with Innovators”. Edited by Arthur Clay, Monika Rut, and Timothy J. Senior, it features a collection of twenty-five interviews from practitioners originating in diverse fields and opposing outwardly.

Divided into three separate chapters, the authors illustrate to the reader models of hybridity that can validate convergence as a method for nurturing innovation across disciplines. Readers interested in innovation and the processes that drive it, will find that each of the chapters of the book addresses a particular area of ​​knowledge and that each of the interviews offers its own perspective on the subject at hand as well as examples that could offer theory into practice.

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I was one of the interviewees in this interesting project. I’m in very cool and amazing company and it’s quite intimidating to be with them, such as Denisa Kera, Davide Angheleddu, Ruedi Stoop, etc. Download it here from iTunes now!

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In my interview I talk about artscience collaborations, The Apocalypse Project, and climate change and cultural change. It also featured a photo from Climate Change Couture: Singapore (the Thermoreflector, modeled by Cheryl). Here is the interview, courtesy of DAW International:

Where Art & Science Coexist
An Interview with Catherine Young

Interviews with Innovators: As an artist, your work primarily explores human perception and its relationship to memory, creativity, and play. In a way, your story as an artist begins with studying molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of the Philippines. What inspired you to move into the arts, and what did you take with you from the sciences?

Catherine Young: I come from a family of artists and doctors. Although my grandfather was a photographer, my mom was a genetics professor so I grew up with a lot of Punnett Squares and DNA lessons. I love science and initially wanted to do only lab-based research, but I realized that I didn’t want to be just cooped up in the lab – there were so many other ways I wanted to pursue my ideas. I moved to New York City at 21 and just saw the endless possibilities available instead of the stifling path I had ahead of me. I moved (or more specifically, “ran away”) to Barcelona and rediscovered art, but also discovered for the first time how art and science could work together. From there I chose to study interaction design for my MFA in the US (which was a relatively new field at the time) because I felt it was a discipline where art and science could coex- ist and be effectively communicated to others.

IWI: You have worked in a variety of traditional forms including draw- ing and painting, but also with less-traditional media such as dirt or soil. What role has artistic and scientific practices played in helping you break away from traditional formats?

CY: When two things collide, new relationships can be formed. For exam- ple, visual art is usually composed of traditional fields such as painting or sculpture—works that the public shouldn’t touch else you destroy the work. But this doesn’t hold true with interactive pieces where the work has to be touched to be experienced. The convergence of art and science leads to new ways to offer stories for people to explore, and unique opportunities for empathy. Also, advancements in science along with new ways of expression in art are leading to greater diversity in the type of work that can be done. For instance, there’s been a relatively recent interest in art investigating smell because of research that shows that olfaction is linked to memory. So if I were an artist interested in memory, this sense is now a channel for me to investigate that theme. Science can inform art and vice versa; each enriches the other.

I don’t really look at my projects and say, “Ok, what is the ‘art’ and what is the ‘science’ here?” I start with the questions I want to explore, and then test those approaches that I feel will best communicate the ideas I want to share with people. My different experience of artistic and scien- tific fields has exposed me to a lot of different ways for investigating top- ics and then presenting them to a wider audience. Science for me involves a lot of data collection, something which I often do in my current work. Artistic methods help me explore the many ways in which I can show that work. Each exhibition of a project is also like an experiment to me, so my work continues as I check how people respond to it. Person- ally, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between art and science because both ask similar questions. However, there is a great difference in the professions of art and science because of the systems we have created to practice them, such as the galleries, the festivals, the labs, academia, industry, and so on.

IWI: “Disclosure of knowledge” or “lifting of the veil” is how you describe your Apocalypse Project. Here you are trying to physically animate an in- quiry made concerning environmental futures. Can you tell us about this research in general and what the process was that transformed an en- quiry into an artwork?

CY: I started The Apocalypse Project during my participation at the 2013 ArtScience Residency Program in partnership with ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, and the Singapore-ETH Zurich Future Cities Laboratory (FCL). I was talking to the scientists in FCL who were doing very interesting research on climate change and sustainability. But while their work was important, I saw a gap between their research and the public understanding of climate change.

In parallel to this, I was doing workshops with high school and college students in Singapore, asking them questions about what climate change looked like to them, what superpowers they wished they had to combat climate change, and what they would wear to a climate-change apocalypse. The last question resonated really well with the majority of the stu- dents, more so than my other questions. I realized that fashion is one thing that people can relate to – clothing is both a means of survival and a form of self-expression. This was the beginning of Climate Change Couture. I took the research of the FCL scientists and designed clothes and narratives that would fit a world that was uninhabitable, highlighting the problems that the research projects addressed. For the first collection, members of the FCL staff were the ones who modeled them and I think it was wonderful to see them outside the lab and being models.

IWI: Besides showing the actual objects themselves, how else have you tried to communicate the fact that climate change is real and “the heat is on” as they say?

CY: The projects are all about experience, so rather than just showing the clothes or the perfumes I developed, the visitors are invited to try on the clothes and smell the perfumes. In this way, they are able to place themselves in the story. I also hold public events, such as Future Feast at The Mind Museum in Manila where I got to collaborate with chefs to think about dishes of the future. It was a real feast with local musicians per- forming, scientists explaining topics about climate change, the chefs talking to people about why things like worm meat and sea vegetables could be future sources of nutrition, and included activities for the whole family. I think doing these inclusive and fun events reframes climate change from a doom-and-gloom political issue, meant to be discussed only by governments, to a human issue about creativity and resilience that everyone should act on.

IWI: Some of the garments that you have put on exhibition connect traditional design culture with what we might call “a fashion of necessity”. Does the inclusion of traditional elements make the message clearer that climate change and cultural change are synonymous?

CY: I think culture has always had to adapt to the environment. For example, the Barong Tagalog, which is a traditional dress for men in the Philip- pines, was designed to be lightweight because of the country’s tropical climate. I re-imagined it with a hoodie because of the unpredictable weather the country now has. When designing for a particular city, I like to research their traditional garments because the message resonates bet- ter with the audience if the visual imagery is familiar and they can relate to it. A lot of my projects deal with future loss, and so the audience has to imagine a world where some things are not available to satisfy the needs of their traditional practices.

IWI: Which of the methods used to carry over your message have been the most effective in motivating and empowering people to become co- creators of a more tangible future?

CY: I think it’s the fact that I do multiple projects, so I give people different ways to engage with environmental futures. If one doesn’t do it for them, another one might. Each project is also exhibited through multiple platforms and in multiple cities, and uses different types of media. Some people knew about the projects through the Internet, but for most peo- ple the work was more powerful when they saw and experienced them in person. From what I’ve observed, I think the work becomes most effec- tive when people are able to share their experience (and the memories that these projects evoke) with other people. This allows conversation about climate change go beyond the exhibition or the festival and into the people’s normal everyday lives. Another is that I target a wide audience. I’m particularly interested in the reactions of young children, because they have the most honest reactions. They will also bear the worst consequences of climate change, so I think they need to learn about it and how to take care of the environment as soon as possible.

IWI: Knowing that the research you have draw upon is the intellectual property of an institution with clear guidelines on representation, do you feel that there are any dangers of misrepresenting such research if presented through art objects and in a museum context?

CY: Yes, which is why I’m extremely careful about collaborations. There are a lot of conversations in the background, with me talking to my col- laborators (be it scientists, chefs, artists, students, companies, etc.) about what the project is, why I’m doing it, what possibilities could follow once we exhibit the work in public, as well as an opportunity to say no. I send out updates from time to time, and I update all my websites regu- larly so everyone knows what I’m up to. I’ve been on fellowships and grants for a long time, so I’m used to accountability and making sure eve- ryone is on the same page so that we’re all happy. For the information and images I have to send out to the press, or that I publish online, I always make sure everyone involved has reviewed it and has no issues with it. I think life is really short and there is no sense in prolonging suf- fering, so if I or the other person is unhappy, and all possible solutions have been exhausted, I probably will end the collaboration and just change the direction of the project.

That said, though, in my experience, if the finished project is successful – and I define “success” here as when a project gains an audience, when the message about climate change is effectively transmitted to another person, and when the collaboration was pleasant and we want to do it again – everybody wins: the artist, the collaborator, the space it was exhibited in, the audience who has had a positive experience. If the project fails at any point, such as if a blogger completely misinterprets it, it’s only me that has to bear it, and I try to rectify it by reaching out to the writer with more information and an invitation to get in touch. Either the writer updates his article or I’ll be working on another project to further make the point. The public events are, to me, critical, because I usually have attendants (I call them The Apocalypse Squad) who are trained to talk about the project and assist the audience if needed. The online presence of the projects is also important because that’s where I put all the information. I’ll get the occasional troll in the exhibition or on the Internet – usually climate change deniers – but I just ignore them.

Catherine Young is an artist, scientist, designer, explorer, and writer whose work primarily explores human perception and its relationships to memory, creativity, and play. Her work combines art and science to create stories, objects, and experiences that facilitate wonder and human connection. Her first solo exhibition was in a science museum. She re- ceived her degree in molecular biology and biotechnology from Manila, fine art education from Barcelona, and has an MFA in Interaction Design from the School of Visual Arts in New York as a Fulbright scholar. Previously, she was on residencies and fellowships in New York, Barcelona, Seoul, Singapore, and Manila.

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For the past few months, I have been involved with a project by The Mind Museum, called A Glass of the Sea (AGoS), an exhibition about the Coral Triangle. Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences have been exploring the Verde Island Passage of the CT and have been discovering an abundance of new species. The Verde Island Passage may well be the apex of marine biodiversity on the planet. How amazing!

The AGoS team was led by The Mind Museum curator Maribel Garcia, Bryant Cabantac, Cris Mora, Carlie Dario, Dem Bitantes, Awesome Lab, and myself. The exhibition is made possible by a grant from USAID.

I did the graphic design of the exhibition. I was inspired by kimono fabrics on my visit in Japan, especially their vibrant and classy colors. We applied this to priming tunnels that are shaped like Asian folding fans as well as English and Filipino signage throughout the exhibition.

Welcome to A Glass of the Sea!

Welcome to A Glass of the Sea!

Enter the waves...

Enter the waves…

You haven’t lived until you’ve done graphic designs of bilingual translations about science. For real. Here’s a fun shot of Darwin and I during installation, while we wrestled with industrial strength velcro.

I did the visual design and Darwin Cayetano did the Filipino translations.

I did the visual design and Darwin Cayetano did the Filipino translations.

In “A Story of the Science of the Sea”, visitors are invited to take a wooden sculpture etched with a sea creature on top, and place it on an NFC reader to watch it come to life on screen. Audio narration gives more information about the creature. This was designed by Cris Mora.

You can choose a  wooden sculpture and put them on an NFC reader to know more about the creature. Video footage provided by California Academy of Sciences.

You can choose a wooden sculpture and put them on an NFC reader to know more about the creature. Video footage provided by California Academy of Sciences.

We also made specially designed video games that each highlight one problem in our oceans. I designed the games while the awesome people at Awesome Labs programmed them.

One game is Garbage Catch, where the user has to prevent garbage from reaching the ocean floor.

You can catch garbage before they fall onto the ocean floor and hurt sea creatures!

You can catch garbage before they fall onto the ocean floor and hurt sea creatures!

A visitor plays Garbage Catch.

A visitor plays Garbage Catch.

Another game is Net Escape, where you prevent unsustainable seafood from swimming into a large net.

Net Escape is a game where you prevent unsustainable seafood from swimming into a large net.

Net Escape is a game where you prevent unsustainable seafood from swimming into a large net.

A visitor plays Net Escape

A visitor plays Net Escape

The last game is Sustainable Seafood Market, where users are given two seafood options at a time. They must pick the sustainable over the unsustainable seafood. This was the toughest game for me to design, but it’s my favorite among the three. We initially called this Sushi Tinder (which is way catchier). I dedicate this to the chick I met who said she eats shark’s fin soup in weddings because “it’s already there”. RAGE.

Sustainable Seafood Market is a game where visitors have to pick the sustainable over the unsustainable seafood.

Sustainable Seafood Market is a game where visitors have to pick the sustainable over the unsustainable seafood.

After each game, the user can make a pledge to take care of the ocean. The pledges are all different and specific, such as “I pledge not to eat or buy shark’s fin soup from restaurants.”

You can pledge to take care of the ocean and have your photo taken by raising your arms like a starfish.

You can pledge to take care of the ocean and have your photo taken by raising your arms like a starfish.

Your Role in Sea Life highlights your impact on the ocean. Cris Mora made these amazing shadow sculptures out of garbage, showing an impaled turtle (one of the many species that suffer because of what mankind is doing to the oceans), cities which contribute to ocean problems, and the earth in the palm of a hand.

Shadow sculptures made of garbage made by Cris Mora

Shadow sculptures made of garbage made by Cris Mora

AGoS is made of primarily sustainable materials, such as the bamboo framework that houses the exhibition.

A Glass of the Sea features a sustainable bamboo frame.

A Glass of the Sea features a sustainable bamboo frame.

It also features an education space entitled “Ocean in Motion” where visitors can make their own sea creatures, learn about marine protected areas, etc.

Here is our education space where visitors can make their own sea creatures, learn about marine protected areas, etc.

Here is our education space where visitors can make their own sea creatures, learn about marine protected areas, etc.

We launched this yesterday, July 16, at The Mind Museum. The exhibition will stay there until October and then will get to travel all over the Philippines. Hurray!

The core team of A Glass of the Sea: Bryant Cabantac, Cris Mora, Maribel Garcia, Carlie Dario, Catherine Young, Darwin Cayetano. Not in the photo: Dem Bitantes and Walter Wong.

The core team of A Glass of the Sea: Bryant Cabantac, Cris Mora, Maribel Garcia, Carlie Dario, Catherine Young, Darwin Cayetano. Not in the photo: Dem Bitantes and Walter Wong.

Thanks for coming, Mom!

Thanks for coming, Mom! <3

Thanks for coming, Mom! ❤

[Seoul, South Korea] I’m happy to be back here in Seoul for a bit for some exhibitions and talks. One of those talks is in the interestingly named Emotion Engineering Department at Sangmyung University. Professor Jieun Kwon, my dear friend and fellow SVA graduate, warmly invited me to give a talk in her class and to observe the lab.

In the beginning of my afternoon in the program, I was impressed by a class assignment—the students had to draw diagrams about the definition of Service Design, and it was interesting to hear a design class in another language. Professor Kwon will be asking them to do another one at the end of the term so they can observe the difference and witness the breadth of what they have learned.

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They gave me a tour of the Emotion Engineering lab. We played with a Star Wars game that uses brain waves. Here we had to make the ball rise to the top.

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I took a few minutes to successfully do so—I thought my brain died—and Professor Kwon was a lot faster than me.

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Afterwards, I gave an artist talk about my background and how I came to do my projects on art and science.

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I’m really happy to be back in Korea; I have, as you know, a lot of great memories from this place and it’s great to be meeting new people. I think it’s fantastic how art, science, and technology are explored in different countries around the world, and how collaborations bring about the coolest projects.

Sangmyung University's Emotion Engineering program with Professor Jieun Kwon

Sangmyung University’s Emotion Engineering program with Professor Jieun Kwon

Warm thanks to Dr. Kwon and her class at the Sangmyung University’s Emotion Engineering program for hosting me!

 

Hello, apocalypters! I’m excited to announce that as a culminating event for The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures, The Mind Museum is collaborating with Radio Republic to bring you Future Feast, a celebration of human creativity and our hopes for a sustainable future. The event will be on July 26, Saturday, 12PM to 7PM at the Special Exhibition Hall of The Mind Museum.

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With the theme of Redesign, I am working with chefs who are creating new dishes for a Convenience Store of the Future. Radio Republic is bringing in their featured artists for July: Slow Hello, Jireh Calo, and Brisom. There will also be a performance by special guest artist Joey Ayala. This is an event for all ages, so bring in your families and get the kids to play at the Tinker Studio, watch spoken word performances and science shows, dress up in clothes from the Climate Change Closet and have your photos taken at the photo booth, smell the perfumes of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, participate in Mission Apocalypse Scavenger Hunt and win an Apocalypse Project Commander Badge, and think of how you can help build a sustainable future by making an Earth Pledge.

Future Feast poster by The Mind Museum, which highlights activities

Future Feast poster by The Mind Museum, which highlights activities

Future Feast poster by Radio Republic, highlighting featured artists, special guest artist, and the chefs

Future Feast poster by Radio Republic, highlighting featured artists, special guest artist, and the chefs

Ticket prices are as follows:

EXPLORE TICKET (All Day Pass to the galleries of TMM, Access to Live Performances, Mission Apocalypse Scavenger Hunt & Climate Change Closet): 500.00 PHP

TASTE TICKET (Access to Live Performances, Future Tastes (6 dishes), and Climate Change Closet): 300.00 PHP

DISCOVER TICKET (Access to Live Performances and Climate Change Closet): 200.00 PHP

TINKER TICKET (Access to Tinker Studio: Make your own Animal Art): 150.00 PHP

You can buy tickets online here. You can also buy your tickets at the museum on the day of the event. No reservations are required.

See you there!

 

I came to Singapore to imagine the apocalypse. Previously, I was on a residency in South Korea where I hiked all the mountains of Seoul and saw firsthand what human activity was doing to the environment. Doing a subsequent residency on climate change and environmental futures was, to me, the logical next step.

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To adequately prepare for the future, we must imagine it as concretely as possible. This was the impetus for creating The Apocalypse Project, a speculative design research inquiry that imagines the future as climate change continues to affect the planet. Initially, I held drawing workshops in Tembusu College, National University of Singapore, asking questions such as “What superpowers would you like to have to navigate through a climate change apocalypse?” or “What would you like to wear to your apocalypse?” I realized that the question on clothes was the one that participants related to the most—they found it fun, engaging, and could better imagine designing clothing that they themselves can wear, as opposed to more abstract questions.

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Based on the workshops, I created the series, Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet. Using the research done by the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, I designed the first five garments in the series, imagining clothing we might wear in specific environmental scenarios and writing a narrative around them. I asked people from FCL to model them for me and photographed them against selected locations in the lab and around Singapore.

I consider myself as someone who works at the intersection of art and science by bringing them together through design, which I believe makes the work accessible and relevant to the audience. I believe that all of us are born artists and scientists—that is, we all have the innate curiosity to explore the world and manifest this in various forms—and it was a pleasure to work with the people in the lab and get to know their artistic sides. Some of the researchers modeled clothes based on their own research, and they were instrumental in the iteration of the designs. I also love working with young people, and some students from Tembusu College collaborated with me during the project.

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A common thread that ties my projects together is a focus on people. I believe in participatory art, especially as climate change affects all of us as a species and not just a select few. Two days before our showcase at ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands, typhoon Haiyan hit my home country, the Philippines. Ironically, the apocalypse I imagined had already happened in my own backyard and will probably keep happening. I’d like to be one of those artists with a cause to work towards, and I think I found it in this residency.

I was one of the two artists who participated in the 2013 Art Science Residency Programme, in partnership with ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, and the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory. You can find the output of my residency at http://www.apocalypse.cc.

This post appears on the website of the Future Cities Laboratory. Thanks, guys!

Here are some sneak peeks into the things I am working on for this residency.

I am reaching that point when my projects are deemed too crazy by people that I have to be the one to model it. The first photo is by the lovely Cheryl Song of the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, who has patiently put up with me.

1 - Climate Change Couture - Catherine Young

2 - Climate Change Couture - Catherine Young 3 - Climate Change Couture - Catherine Young 4 - Earth vs Humans - Catherine Young

 

Follow the project site at http://www.apocalypse.cc.

This week, I and my fellow artist-in-residence Michael spoke in Tembusu College’s Singapore as Model City class.

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It looks like I’m singing, but I’m not. I was just saying hi and asking if they could hear me. Thanks, Dr. Margaret Tan, for the photo.

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I think I like it when the stage design is reversed and I’m looking up.

I won’t elaborate on parts of my talk that I’ve posted before, such as what happened during The Apocalypse Workshops or the comments on DrawHappy that made me rethink what the project could be about. So instead, I’ll emphasize some of the things I learned about experience design and collaborations between art and science.

Experience and memory
The image my have the last word, but for me, experience is the one that stay with you forever. I referred to a series of articles I wrote when I was a young journalist, oh so many years ago. This is a photo of me when I was 19 years old:

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In this photo, I was wearing the costume on the left, although I also wore the one on the right. These are mascots from Jollibee, a Filipino fast food chain that, for me, is one of the icons of modern Filipino culture and taste. It was for a series of articles called Temporarily Yours, where I took on a job for a day and then wrote about it. Looking back, these are exercises in empathy, albeit short ones, where I realized how it was to be on the other side of the fence. Most of these jobs were in food or customer service, such as a barista or a sushi chef. Others were about performance, such as a magician’s assistant or a zookeeper. In this particular article, I wrote about how it was to be a mascot and embody a character beloved by children. I still vividly remember these experiences more than a decade later, such as how the head of Hetty (the female character, short for “spaghetti”) was so big and difficult to balance, and how Jollibee’s butt was so huge, it took two guys to shove me through a door. You know, good times.

Projects like these have shaped my views on how I execute future projects. Though I don’t feel that my work fits just one area of inquiry, I think that the common thread between all of them is that of experience. Experience is very powerful. The image may have the last word, but in a world where we are saturated by images, I believe that experience makes these images last longer and gives them more meaning.

Korea and Experience Booths

My views on experience design have also been honed through seeing South Korea’s experience booths in festivals, which will always mark my memories of that country. In festivals in the US or in Europe, I would usually find people selling me a finished product, let’s say a ceramic pot. But in Korea, I will be sold the experience of making or painting my own pot. In this case, I will find myself sitting down at the booth and getting messy at the table, thus slowing down, making my experience more personal, and hopefully have a longer lasting memory than just having the generic festival experience. Perhaps I will end up treasuring the pot I made myself rather than just another cheap souvenir. I also think these booths give wonderful creative opportunities for families, children, and the elderly.

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A Korean experience booth on printmaking

Korea can get quite creative with their experience booths, such as this one I saw down south in Hampyeong.

I believe that the role of artists / scientists / designers is not just to have these unique experiences through their work, but to share these with others. Typically, we share that experience by writing about it for others to read. Through that reading, perhaps someone will profoundly connect with our writing. However, I think that human bonds can be stronger through a shared experience. Your audience can create their own experiences for themselves and yield results that are unexpected, like what I’ve learned from previous projects. This is when you realize that your audience teach you something as well, which is a wonderful thing. Projects become a conversation between creator and audience, which will only serve to fuel human creativity and progress.

Art, Science, and Sustainability

Personally, I believe that the wealth of human knowledge is too vast to just break down into two, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s go with these two fields: art and science. As I have been trained in both, I have felt what it was like on each “side”. I have been “the scientist” in an art/design studio, and “the artist” in a science lab. Both types of experiences have been very unique to me. Both sides have their own ivory towers. Those who choose to be in those towers, I think, should quickly parachute off. Our world is too vast and our problems too complex for petty squabbling. Unexpected things can happen when ideas from each side, as they say, have sex. Here is a nice comic by Bird and Moon that shows that.

sciencevsart

Image copyright by Bird and Moon

Collaboration is especially important in the realm of sustainability, which is a world I did not expect to enter. It’s quite a booming area, especially in Singapore. Everyone and your mother is doing sustainability.*  (That, and “cities” and “resilience.”) I referred (again) to this Ngram by xkcd.

*Did I really say that in a university class? Yes, I did.

Image copyright by xkcd

Image copyright by xkcd

Instead of being a part of the echo chamber that such “trending” fields create, perhaps new solutions can emerge by letting disciplines hang out together, as they used to do, way back when.

In the end, I emphasized empathy to these bright eyed young students who are in the middle of creating sustainable urban interventions for their class. I said this as someone from the Philippines, a developing country. I cannot tell you how many international consultants in there right now, wanting to save it from XYZ problems. Now, I am very grateful that these brilliant people are there, and I am sure they have great intentions. Certainly foreigners can see opportunities locals may have overlooked, as I have had, being a foreigner in four other countries. But I’ve seen enough projects that never get implemented or never have their full potential realized because of these gaps in empathy. I believe we can do better.