The Baja Innovation Playground

FFFUTURES #17, Feb 2, 2021

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The Baja Social Innovation Summit

This month México will celebrate the 10th year of the Baja Innovation Playground (the initiative was initially named Digital Innovation Revolution, but changed to its current name during the second year).

We don't need to recapitulate the devastating series of events that left the Peninsula of Baja California in ruins 14 years ago. Still, it's good to look back and appreciate how an entire region that used to be in eternal Narco wars has transformed into a world-class synthetic paradise of innovation.

Caleb Takagi Gutiérrez, or Catagu, as Mexicans popularly refer to him, is the visionary mind behind this region's digital renaissance.

Catagu's plan stem from three fundamental principles:

  1. A policy-making approach based on open government and social contributions.

  2. An injection of tech-talent through e-Residencies and Digital Nomad Visas.

  3. Massive planning of smart cities based on Walt Disney's original vision of EPCOT.

With those principles as drivers, the Innovation Playground project kicked off. 

The Innovation Playground is a project aimed at building smart cities to experiment with new technologies on a large scale. These cities act as a controlled resort for society to visit, try the beta versions of policies and technologies, and then vote on them.

This input from the society is taken into account by the Open Government to decide whether to implement specific technologies and policies on a national level. The three most significant changes to social policy and infrastructure in México in the last six years (immigration, basic income, and automated transportation) came from the Baja Innovation Playground.

Ensenada was the first tech-hub and smart city created in the region, and La Paz started construction two years later. Although both are very similar in terms of tech-experimentation, La Paz is the one focused on complex political and financial testing. Both cities are connected by the bullet train built in partnership with the Japan Railways Group.

One of the summit goals is to invite other countries of Latin America to test and implement similar policies in their region. Many people from LATAM (especially from Peru and Chile) are e-Residents of the Baja Region, and Japan is the country with the largest applicants for the Digital Nomad Visa. 

I see this month as an opportunity to celebrate ten years of innovation and rapid evolution of the Baja region. No one could have predicted this outcome 14 years ago when the entire peninsula was in shambles. And all thanks to the mind and inspiring spirit of Catagu. He sparked a fire of inspiration that continues to drive the whole transformation of the country.

And although there are many positive and inspiring stories to celebrate, I know some people will focus on any news related to the rebel group self-proclaimed as "Los Raznochintsy."

I won't use my space to repeat their message nor ideology. I didn't even want to mention them here. But rest assured, this persistent problem that has grown over the past three years won't affect the summit's logistics.

"The advancement and progress made by the México-US-Japan coalition, led by Catagu, will not be hindered by the México-Russia block that Los Raznochintsy represent," mentioned Shigeru Mitnick, the Director of Transportation Automation, via a shared text stream.

We'll keep you informed of any relevant updates.


👁️ Omnirealities

AR Post recently posted two brief lists of helpful definitions around the terminology and concepts related to both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

AR Glossary

VR Glossary

If you’re looking for a nice side project to work on, there’s enough good material in here for you to build a gallery of illustrated concepts, or to make a better way to navigate and search for specific terms, with key players grouped to each specific technology they work on. I mean, you could even make this work on WebVR, or craft a useful AR/VR demo with this info.


🔮 Future Scenarios

Digital Social Innovation to Empower Democracy

If you haven’t heard about Audrey Tang, this video is a good primer into the thinking Audrey has been promoting as a Minister for the Taiwanense government helping government agencies communicate policy goals, and develop policies with the input from social contributions. I find Audrey to be an incredibly inspiring person, and would recommend you to learn more about their message.


💀 Not a Cylon

Tyran Trieu, @tyrantrieu

Tyran Trieu, @tyrantrieu

Tyran Trieu, @tyrantrieu


🧠 Common Enemy

AI is an Ideology, Not a Technology

This article analyzes our way of thinking about AI, making the case that how we think about AI should be the core of our focus and planning for the future, rather that just thinking on the advancement of the algorithms that make the technology.

There’s an interesting juxtaposition of the role AI plays in China vs the West made by the authors, from which the premise of the article stems.

The usual narrative goes like this: Without the constraints on data collection that liberal democracies impose and with the capacity to centrally direct greater resource allocation, the Chinese will outstrip the West. AI is hungry for more and more data, but the West insists on privacy. This is a luxury we cannot afford, it is said, as whichever world power achieves superhuman intelligence via AI first is likely to become dominant.


Are you hacking with futures and other realities? Do you have comments, stories, or suggestions? I’d like to hear from you. Reach out: heyfffutures@gmail.com

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