Plex: 1 May 2024

Mutual Updates; Framing Numbness; Hiking Red Rocks Open Space; Trauma Informed Design; Bush Office; Watching the Geminids; Scenes from Livorno; A Vibrant Ecosystem of Freelancers

Plex: 1 May 2024

The Biweekly Plex Dispatch is an inter-community newspaper published by Collective Sense Commons on first and third Wednesdays of each month. Price per issue: 1 USD, or your choice of amount (even zero).

In This Issue

  • Mutual Updates (Kevin Jones)
  • Framing Numbness (Patti Cobian)
  • Hiking Red Rocks Open Space (Patti Cobian)
  • Trauma Informed Design (Wendy Elford)
  • Bush Office (Wendy Elford)
  • December 1969–Watching the Geminids (Ken Homer)
  • Scenes from Livorno (Ken Homer)
  • A Vibrant Ecosystem of Freelancers (Peter Kaminski)

Mutual Updates

by Kevin Jones

I decided that Act Local was too limiting a frame. Stopped the classes; they didn’t want classes, they wanted to connect with a cause or campaign to get active with other people doing something they’d feel good about. Easy community engagement was the demand. I didn’t want to do that.

I am going to set up shop from 3-5 every Friday to do mutual updates, virtual and live in a little-used coffee shop in my community. Already got the key person, the Warren Wilson head of enviro science. We will check in on stuff we are doing around their Guaranteed from Seed suite of four biomedicinals. We want to use our Give to Invest platform to help the launch phase with that suite, for folks who know how to grow but don’t know what’s next. The check-ins can be virtual or in person. Most probably virtual, which is fine, if you design it that way.

Other younger people are taking the lead on these things. I’m just putting the partnerships together, and paying for some market research, etc. Eagle Market Streets CDC, my long time partner, is the anchor of this new thing too. Stephanie has let two of my ideas become real on her philanthropic investment platform, now.


charles blass

Framing Numbness

by Patti Cobian

I enjoy excavating phrases, ideas or concepts whose popular use tends to be casual or seemingly “throw-away” in nature. It reminds me of playing in the archeological exhibit at the Chicago Children’s Museum when I was five, gently brushing and digging along the edges of enormous plastic dinosaur skeletons that lay a few inches below the sand, bringing their form and size into greater clarity and visibility. 

One such idea has recently captured my imagination: at first, its outline appeared to be small, an unassuming nub in the vast sandbox of ideas, easy to dismiss. As I survey it now, I feel the same wide-eyed excitement that I did so many years ago, when what appeared to be a single, small, solitary bone would reveal itself to be the knuckle bone of an entire skeleton.

The knucklebone in question is a topic I’ve been well acquainted with for years: numbness of both body and mind, the hazy analgesic whose armor moonlights as a self-same cage. The years it took me to climb out of numbness have also served as a rich field of study into the topic itself.

I am starting to consider that numbness might be much more than the unfortunate and predictable aftermath of a serious breach (or breaches) of the nervous system’s window of tolerance; it may, in fact, be both origin and crux of numerous critical issues, arising at the level of individual and manifesting in horrific ways at the collective and systemic level.

The onset of numbness itself can be sneaky and insidious, its vague nature stretching our ability to name and liberate with language, becoming the very invisibility cloak that allows it to wander and vandalize for years without arousing suspicion. And herein lies the crux: if negative feedback is the key to any self-correcting system, what happens when that feedback system fails to function properly?

What does this mean for the systems we are indoctrinated into that all but guarantee the numbing of heart, body and mind, and what does it mean for those system’s leaders? Indeed, what other series of outcomes could be possible in a world that robs its leaders of the very mechanism required for sustainable and equitable leadership – the ability to feel, empathize and understand the pain of another?

My suspicion is this: that on the other side of our inability to feel (individually and collectively) lies each and every wasteland – each crisis – that threatens the collective ecosystem of the planet. An unusual suspect indeed; how can we create wanted posters for an invisible criminal, one who never leaves fingerprints at the scene of the crime because they are long, long gone?

Hiking Red Rocks Open Space

by Patti Cobian

“Travel on Durable Surfaces”
Taken on a cold and foggy day at Garden of the Gods.


charles blass

Trauma Informed Design

by Wendy Elford

Lately I have been reading a bit about anxiety, fear, risk, uncertainty, and always, about all things design. It’s a habit that I take up now and then and always one that delivers huge value.

The concept of being ‘trauma informed’ comes up a lot in my world of human-centred design. It seems that as humans, everywhere we wander we can be challenged by the sensory inputs that we receive and how we perceive them. When we work through near automatic states of anxiety and fear, we end up with a less than ideal result, and we experience a lot of misery in the process.

Some of the books I’m reading include ‘Rewire your anxious brain’, ‘Radical risk’, ‘Uncertainty’ by Jonathan Field, and ‘Get out of your mind and into your life’. There are many others I circle back to.

So, the basis of this idea of trauma informed design is that our responses to our environment and the situations we encounter are learned through exposure to the world, leading to what we perceive as trauma. Designers counter the impact by actively reducing our exposure to the things that they have learned, through their experience and research, traumatise us.

Trauma informed design gives us the choice to avoid experiencing triggers or to ensure we never encounter at least the most dangerous ones until we either have the skills or equipment to deal with them.

What triggers us as humans varies a lot with our upbringing, which is the point about having a very reassuring first three to seven years of life so that we don’t jump at the next thing we don’t expect. Start your exploration here with self-regulation and the circle of safety. The idea is that by being nurtured by others through these early “traumas” we learn to perceive them as satisfied by nurturing humans. A wider range of sensory experiences become interesting or at least to we learn to distinguish between the ones that our context sensitive and wiser peers have learned are really are dangerous from those situations that are useful or at least might become useful in the future. Without this social trust or at least trust in your ability to pick up what is and is not dangerous in a range of environments and situations, being curious and learning is difficult if not impossible.

Which means those of us who are a little bit of the Nervous Nelly type can actually become more alert and aware to what’s happening now or emerging on the horizon than others. Think canary in the coal mine. Anxiety or even an early demise is the price you pay for this ability. If you are one of those gifted with the blessings and curses of anxiety, mental health may not be your strong suit. Yet you might be off the charts on perception and creativity.

Some of us are wired to be so perceptive that everything is interesting and we’re not able to focus on any one thing. This is where we might think of a range, a spectrum of people from needing to order and control everything just to make our worlds work moment to moment, to those people who are far more jumpy and unstable, responding to over imagination or to other people who are compulsively driven to fix what is actually not a problem again and again. You might even know someone with a looser grip on who they are, seeing them flip between different personalities and versions of themselves or between different states of energy.

We are all different and differences are seen as the context changes. We are all, at some level, Neurospicy people in a situation that is threateningly new. The ability to be able to safely and fully experience variety is critical to being fully alive to opportunity and resilience as a human.

And then there are people who are so comfortable that nothing is perceived as trauma but no change is expected either. We can’t anticipate or plan if we don’t have imagination. Ground Hog Day is not really living. An extreme version of ‘numbness’ is the extreme integration of perception, of being so Zen about the world that equanimity is a consistent experience and experience itself disappears.

Imagination is a human capability that none of us living in an ever-changing world can afford to lose. Anticipation keeps us alive and growing as humans. It’s our “edge” and also our downfall.

So my take on trauma informed design for myself is about rewiring me so that I can be in multiple environments. I learn to pick up through acquiring greater sensitivity to what’s going on. I slowed down to speed up. Ironically, when I walk towards the sensation that’s uncomfortable, I make more sense of what’s going on than I would if I was super anxious or so chilled I fool myself into believing that nothing was worth noticing.

So how does these sensory challenges fit with trauma informed design?

I like to create and redesign the environments around me again and again so that I learn to be assured I can choose to be at ease neurologically anywhere.

Strangely that means learning to be uncomfortable and so working outdoors is part of that. Think outdoor office. The idea is that I can settle myself and cold is not the problem I thought it was nor the wind nor the sun. It gives me a much greater range of places that I can ease myself into, not wall myself away from. Gradually, I learn to experience the world more fully.

Strangely, this approach seeks to make me more compassionate, more curious about what’s going on for other people in the spaces, places, and experiences we share.

I often go back to Stuart Shanker’s work on self-regulation. It’s not possible for us to force through design everything in our individual or shared worlds to fully account for our traumas or the traumas of others. Trauma is person specific. Perception of past trauma can and should shift overtime if we have enough new experiences and work on reframing our lifelong collection of experiences. It’s a creative act and lifetime pursuit.

Yet active design is always about choice and change; change may not always be comfortable and the discomfort forces you to notice and learn.

Choosing to stage your experience of discomfort is smart, though shock immersion is sometimes useful. You might need to avoid really noisy or really bright places until you’ve got the skills to handle them through little shocks you can recover from or to mitigate noise or light with a little simple equipment.

Earplugs anyone? I remember the first time I started walking around a city wearing earplugs. Finally, I could be comfortable people-watching. I laughed at myself. I could use my eyes more easily because the noise of the place wasn’t pushing me away. The flipside of that would be to wear an eye mask and sit in a civic square and just concentrate on learning to listen into the noise.

So my view here is to develop the habit of curiosity by learning not to be traumatised so much; by constantly experiencing variety. To be always seeking out different temperatures, different amounts of light, differing amounts of sound and heat, different levels of exertion and then to lean into whatever the changes that could be my past “trauma”.

At first I believed it was illogical to push levels of discomfort. Trauma informed design for me is now more about learning that it isn’t actually trauma, that it’s my learning edge to confirm or gradually to widen my tolerance window for certain sets of conditions, all the while knowing when to come back from disorder and how to regenerate.

…. and for that, it’s also much easier when you are among friends. Just giving a moment of gratitude to my colleagues and partners in crime in OGM and wider spaces.

Bush Office

by Wendy Elford

(ed. note: For American readers, the Australian word “bush” means more or less “wilderness”.)

Bush office toolkit
Bush office, Black Mountain, Canberra


charles blass

December 1969–Watching the Geminids

by Ken Homer

I joined the Boy Scouts in 1969 at age 12. Growing up in a Navy town we had several scoutmasters who were in the Navy. One of them was Ed, whose last name I’ve long since forgotten. Probably because, unlike the other scoutmasters, who wanted to be addressed as Mr. Matthews and Mr. Sewell, Ed said, “Just call me Ed.” And so, we all did just that. Ed was an expert in survival techniques and a tad on the crazy side.

Ed clearly loved being a Scoutmaster. He had compassion us and our awkward age. Ed was a seasoned outdoorsman who had grown up in the Rocky Mountains. He deeply loved the Maine woods and he regularly took us on camping trips. He was tall and roughly hewn with long limbs and huge hands and he may have been the most confident man I had ever met up to that point in my life. Ed had a kind likable manner and an easy way about him. As a 12-year-old boy I idolized him and wanted to be like him. I recall he drove a ‘65 Chevy Suburban panel truck that would fit half the troop and nearly all our camping gear in its capacious interior.

Long before I read The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, Ed had taught me that the number one rule of survival is: Don’t Panic! Ed had instructed us to always carry a deck of cards with us and if we got lost to sit down and play a game of solitaire (provided we were safe of course) and that the chances were good that before we finished the game someone would come up behind us and tell us to play the red jack on the black queen. Ed repeatedly emphasized the need to stay calm–freaking out was the worst thing we could do–while staying calm would help us to think and survive. It’s a life lesson that has served me well over the years.

Ed showed us how to use silk parachute cord to create a gill net to catch fish. Ed taught us how to build a lean-to and how to build a fire and light it with one match.

One day Ed decided to put our survival skills to the test by going winter camping in Raymond Maine in mid-December! I was excited at the prospect of winter camping, but I wasn’t properly outfitted for it. My sleeping bag was a three-season affair and winter wasn’t one of them. It had been purchased at Mammoth Mart, which was the dept store that my dad managed.

There was deep snow on the ground. The temperatures at night plummeted to near zero and we were all in lean-tos. I froze my ass off that night, and I had to abandon my lean-to. I dragged my sleeping bag next to the fire putting my Space Blanket reflecting side up so that my body heat wouldn’t melt the snow and soak the bag which would make me even colder than I already was.

Fortunately, we’d laid in a plentiful supply of firewood, and I kept that fire roaring throughout the night. I stayed close to it restless, shivering, and trying to stay warm. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too much. What made it all worthwhile though and the reason I look back on this as a fond memory and not a foul one is because the Geminids were putting on a spectacular display that night, the best I’ve ever seen.

In 1969 Raymond Maine’s population was about 1,300 people. We were camped far away from the town so there was virtually no light pollution. The Moon had left the stage hours before. As I laid there staring up at the vault of the heavens, I counted over 300 meteors streaking across the ink-black dome. I felt each blazing trace connected me to the Cosmos. Lying next to that fire on a clear and cold December night, deep in the Maine woods, watching one of nature’s greatest spectacles, brought me so alive that I have filed the event under “Lifetime Treasures” because it was something wonderful and precious and enlivening. Thanks Ed – I’ll always be grateful to you!

Ken Homer • April 2024

Scenes from Livorno

by Ken Homer


charles blass

A Vibrant Ecosystem of Freelancers

by Peter Kaminski with GPT-4
Digital images by Peter Kaminski with various tools over the years

This is my chapter of the book, AI Futures: An Anthology, co-written by Cyndi Coon, Kyle Shannon, Lee Chazen, Wendy Elford, Camilla Esser, Peter Kaminski, and Michael Lennon. Available now on Amazon and via other distributors later this year.


By trade, I’ve been an entrepreneur, product designer, and software developer, working in software and the Internet, especially with interactive products and services.

But ever since I was a kid—more decades ago than I like to think about—I’ve had a passion for both visual imagery and the written word. I’ve continued to pursue those hobbies over the years, although never very intensively. But along with my work in interactive computer systems, it turns out that I’ve absorbed a ton of technical knowledge about both images and the written word: composition, lighting, color theory, perspective and depth, proportion, positive and negative space, aspect ratios; grammar and syntax, vocabulary; narrative structure, point of view, character development, tone and mood, etc.

And yet, the thousands of hours I spent on learning a trade went into the depths and breadth of computer science, information technology, and startup business practices. I never had much time to put into creating visual imagery or written words.


So imagine my surprise and delight when generative AI tools for imagery and written language burst onto the scene in 2022. Suddenly, I had the expressivity and speed at my fingertips to take my hobbyist-level knowledge and technical skills to a semi-professional level.

Everyone has their own story of their relationship to art and creativity, and their own history of how they did or did not take the time to develop the technical skills to express themselves professionally in art and poetry. However, it’s a pretty universal thing that people do like to express themselves artistically.

I envision a world where the paintbrush of creativity is no longer held only by the traditionally trained or innately gifted; where generative AI has democratized the ability for people to be involved in the creative process.


I believe this can happen in the commercial creative world, for people who have deep interest and who spend a little time to learn how to work with “power tools” like AI image synthesizers and large language models. For that is what they are, power tools. They don’t replace human agency and human creativity; rather they expand it, make it faster and broader.

After working with generative AI for a year, and watching other people adopt it as a tool, what I find is that it helps people sing their own song better. People find their voice, learn how to expand their expressive talents, and best of all, learn how to work creatively together with other people faster and better.


Here’s my vision: a vibrant ecosystem of freelancers—mostly individuals, not companies—working in a networked marketplace where they can collaborate with others to create commercial value.

Combining their natural talents, enhanced with capabilities that emerge from the use of a power tool like an image generator or an LLM, they complement and then ultimately start to displace more traditionally hierarchical corporate structures. Sort of like learning to play jazz together, these freelancers will work together to tackle projects they would have found impossible before generative AI, and will become a major commercial creative force.

Frog Bog, Intellivision (1982)

Why Now?


The rise of the gig economy and freelance work has been reshaping the labor market. People increasingly value flexibility, autonomy, and the ability to pursue diverse interests and projects. AI tools fit neatly into this trend, as they can enhance individual capabilities and open up new opportunities for freelancers. Automation and AI are reshaping what work looks like, pushing the economy towards jobs that require creativity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence – areas where humans excel.


The rapid development and accessibility of AI technologies, such as image synthesizers and large language models, have democratized creative and analytical abilities. These tools enable individuals to perform tasks that previously required extensive training or large teams, thus leveling the playing field for freelancers and small businesses. AI tools can empower individuals who may not have had access to certain industries due to educational or resource constraints. This can lead to a more diverse and inclusive creative landscape.


I’ve noticed a growing trend of online communities where individuals collaborate, share knowledge, and create together. AI tools can act as a catalyst in such environments, enhancing collaborative efforts and enabling individuals to work on projects that were previously out of reach due to skill or resource limitations. The Internet has made collaboration across distances easier than ever. Platforms that facilitate networking and collaboration can harness the collective creativity and expertise of freelancers worldwide, leading to innovative solutions and new forms of value creation.

Lollipop, Photoshop (2005)

Power Tools for Creative Talent

In my vision, AI tools like image synthesizers and large language models (LLMs) act as force multipliers for individual talents, particularly in the creative process, enabling people to achieve together what they couldn’t alone. Here are some ways these tools enhance natural talents and foster collaborative creativity


Imagine a freelance graphic designer, Alex, who specializes in creating unique branding materials for small businesses. Alex’s natural talent lies in understanding a client’s vision and translating it into visually compelling designs.


Process: Alex would manually sketch out ideas, spend considerable time on research and experimentation, and go through several iterations based on client feedback.

Limitations: The process could be time-consuming, and Alex’s creativity could be limited by personal knowledge or experience in certain design styles.


Enhanced Ideation: Alex starts a project by inputting a brief description into an AI image synthesizer. The tool generates various visual concepts based on the latest design trends and a diverse array of artistic styles.

Refinement and Customization: Alex selects a concept and uses the AI tool to modify and iterate quickly, adjusting colors, layouts, or styles based on real-time feedback from the client.

Efficiency in Execution: For more complex tasks, Alex uses an LLM to write code for custom animations or interactive elements, significantly speeding up the development process.

Expanding Creativity: The AI tool exposes Alex to design styles and elements she might not have considered, expanding her creative repertoire.


Amplified Creativity: Alex is able to deliver innovative, high-quality designs faster and with a broader creative range.

Client Satisfaction: Clients benefit from a more diverse set of ideas and quicker turnaround times.

Personal Growth: Alex continuously learns from the AI-generated ideas, enhancing his skills and knowledge.


Idea Generation and Brainstorming: For writers, LLMs can suggest plot ideas, character developments, or even write sample dialogues, speeding up the brainstorming process. For visual artists, image synthesizers can quickly generate concept art or visual ideas based on a brief description. In a team setting, these tools can facilitate a more dynamic and diverse idea-generation session, where members can instantly visualize or articulate ideas and build upon them collaboratively.

Rapid Prototyping and Experimentation: In design fields, whether it’s graphic design, fashion, or product design, AI tools can quickly generate prototypes based on specified parameters. This capability allows teams to explore a wider range of options and variations in a shorter time, enabling more iterative and experimental approaches to design.

Skill Augmentation: For individuals with strong creative ideas but limited technical skills in a particular domain, AI tools can fill the gap. A writer with a vision for a book cover can use an image synthesizer to create it, or a musician can use AI to help arrange and produce a song. In teams, this means individuals can contribute more substantially outside their primary area of expertise, leading to more holistic collaboration.

Language Translation and Localization: LLMs can assist in translating and localizing content, making collaboration across different languages and cultures more seamless. This expands the scope of collaboration, allowing teams to work globally and access a wider market.

Enhanced Editing and Refinement: AI can assist in editing processes, from grammar and style checks in writing to color correction and composition adjustments in visual art. This allows creators to focus on the more creative aspects of their work, trusting AI to help with the technical fine-tuning.

Accessibility and Inclusion: These tools can make creative endeavors more accessible to people with disabilities. For instance, voice-to-text features in LLMs can help those who cannot type, and image synthesizers can help visually impaired artists create visual art.

Escher's Doorknob, Photoshop (2006)

Collaboration in the Freelancer Ecosystem

The nature of collaboration in a networked freelancer ecosystem, especially one enhanced by AI tools, will likely be dynamic, fluid, and project-based, characterized by flexibility, diversity, and a focus on leveraging complementary skills. Here’s how collaboration might function, including the mechanisms for finding and choosing collaborators and distributing value.


Digital Platforms and Networks: Specialized online platforms and networks play a crucial role. These platforms can use AI algorithms to recommend potential collaborators based on skills, past projects, client reviews, and compatibility in terms of working styles and creative vision.

Social Media and Professional Networks: Social media and professional networking sites also facilitate connections. Freelancers can showcase their work, engage with other professionals, and receive referrals through these channels.

Community and Events: Offline and online community events, workshops, and seminars are venues where freelancers can network, share ideas, and find potential collaborators.

Direct Outreach: Freelancers might also directly reach out to individuals whose work they admire or who possess complementary skills, proposing collaboration opportunities.


Project-Based Teams: Teams will form on a project-by-project basis, often with members from diverse backgrounds and locations. This allows for flexibility and the assembly of a team whose skills are specifically suited to the project’s requirements and diversity that can lead to innovative and unique outcomes.

Cross-Disciplinary Interaction: Collaborations often bring together individuals from different disciplines, fostering innovative approaches and solutions that might not emerge in more homogenous groups.

Role Flexibility: Individuals might take on different roles in different projects, depending on the needs and their skill sets. This flexibility can lead to more learning opportunities and a more dynamic working environment.

Use of Collaborative Tools: Real-time collaboration tools, project management software, and AI-driven platforms will facilitate seamless teamwork, even for remote collaborators.


Pre-Agreed Terms: The distribution of value and earnings is typically agreed upon before starting the project. This agreement can be based on the contribution level, project role, or other factors mutually decided by the collaborators.

Revenue Sharing Models: There could be various models for revenue sharing, such as equal distribution, percentage based on contribution, or role-specific rates.

Smart Contracts and Digital Platforms: To facilitate fair and transparent distribution, collaborators might use smart contracts, especially on blockchain-based platforms. These contracts can automatically distribute earnings based on pre-set terms.

Recognition and Credit: Apart from financial compensation, proper recognition and credit for each collaborator’s work are vital. This acknowledgment can contribute to each freelancer’s reputation and portfolio.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms: Effective mechanisms for resolving disagreements or disputes over work quality, compensation, or intellectual property rights are essential for maintaining trust and fairness in the ecosystem.

Equity and Investment Models: In some cases, collaborators might choose to invest time and skills in exchange for equity or a stake in the project’s future success. Dynamic models that apportion not only equity, but also governance and profit-sharing, may come to the fore.


Trust and Communication: Building trust and maintaining clear communication are critical, especially in a remote and dynamic environment. This requires strong interpersonal skills and effective use of communication tools.

Cultural and Time Zone Differences: Collaborations across different countries require navigating cultural differences and time zone challenges.

Quality Control: Maintaining consistent quality across different collaborators and projects can be challenging. Peer reviews, feedback systems, and quality control protocols can help mitigate this.

Intellectual Property Rights: Determining and respecting intellectual property rights in collaborative projects can be complex, especially when multiple parties contribute significantly.

Conflict Resolution: With varied backgrounds and perspectives, conflicts may arise. Mechanisms for mediation and conflict resolution will be essential.

Collaboration in this freelance-centric ecosystem will be dynamic, multidisciplinary, and highly dependent on digital platforms for connection and coordination. The success of such collaborations will hinge on clear communication, fair value distribution, and mutual respect for diverse talents and contributions.

Splendid Lake, Wombo Dream (April 2022)

Towards a Networked Marketplace of Freelancers

The transition towards a networked marketplace of freelancers displacing traditional corporate hierarchies is likely to be gradual and multifaceted, influenced by various economic, technological, and social factors. Here’s an outline of how this transition might happen, along with potential challenges and resistance from established industries:


Growing Preference for Flexibility and Autonomy: As more individuals seek work-life balance, flexibility, and autonomy, the appeal of freelancing grows. This shift is further accelerated by the availability of powerful AI tools that enable individuals to compete with larger corporations.

Technological Empowerment: Advanced technologies lower the barriers to entry for freelancers, allowing them to offer services that were once the domain of specialized firms. For example, a solo graphic designer, using AI tools, can now produce work at a scale and speed that competes with a small design agency.

Rise of Collaboration Platforms: Online platforms that facilitate collaboration and networking among freelancers will become more sophisticated, enabling complex projects that require a team’s effort but without the need for a traditional corporate structure.

Shift in Business Mindset: Businesses, especially startups and SMEs, may increasingly turn to freelancers for more flexible, innovative, and cost-effective solutions, further legitimizing and bolstering the freelance market.

Economic Incentives: The potential for cost savings and access to a diverse talent pool on a project-by-project basis will incentivize businesses to engage with freelancers more frequently.

Increased Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness: Freelancers, empowered by AI tools, can often work more efficiently and cost-effectively than larger organizations. As businesses seek to reduce costs and increase agility, they might prefer hiring freelancers or small teams for creative projects.

Rise of Specialized Talent: The freelance market allows for a greater degree of specialization. Professionals can focus on niche areas, attracting clients who need specific expertise that larger companies might not offer.

Flexibility and Scalability: Freelancers can easily scale their services up or down according to demand, which is appealing to businesses looking for flexibility. This adaptability becomes a significant advantage over traditional, rigid corporate structures.

Collaborative Platforms and Ecosystems: As technology continues to advance, platforms that facilitate collaboration and project management among freelancers will become more sophisticated, making it easier for freelancers to work together on complex projects.


Institutional Inertia: Established industries and corporations might resist this shift due to ingrained practices, hierarchical structures, and the perceived risk of changing business models.

Regulatory Challenges: The rise of a freelance-centric model could lead to regulatory challenges, especially concerning labor laws, intellectual property rights, contractual obligations, and standardization of freelance work.

Quality and Reliability Concerns: Some businesses may question the quality and reliability of work done by freelancers, preferring the perceived stability and accountability of traditional firms.

Market Saturation and Competition: As the freelance market grows, there might be an oversaturation of providers, leading to intense competition and potentially driving down wages.

Benefits and Job Security: Freelancers often lack the benefits and job security associated with traditional employment, which can be a significant deterrent for some individuals.

Adaptation to New Technologies: The need for constant upskilling to stay abreast of evolving AI tools and technologies can be a challenge for freelancers.

Need for Self-Management Skills: Freelancers need strong self-management skills. Not everyone is suited for or interested in managing the entrepreneurial aspects of freelance work.

Reliance on Technology: This model heavily relies on technology and digital platforms, which could be a barrier for those with limited access or technical skills.

Network and Reputation Building: Establishing a reputation and network can be challenging for newcomers in the freelance market, where previous work and referrals often drive opportunities.


Education and Training: Programs to educate freelancers about new technologies and business practices will be crucial.

Building Trust: Establishing quality standards and reliable review systems on freelance platforms can help build trust among businesses.

Advocacy and Policy Making: Freelancers may need to form collectives or organizations to advocate for their rights and shape policies that support the freelance ecosystem.

While the shift towards a freelance-centric model enhanced by AI technologies presents numerous opportunities, it also comes with significant challenges. The transition will require a concerted effort from freelancers, businesses, technology providers, and policymakers to address these challenges and fully realize the potential of this new work paradigm.

Pink Elephant, Blue Car, DALL-E 2 (July 2022)

Roles for Governments

Governments will play critical roles in supporting and regulating the new ecosystem shaped by AI and a freelance-centric workforce. Their involvement is essential for creating a conducive environment that fosters innovation and ensures fair practice. Here are some of the ways governments can contribute.

Regulatory Frameworks: Develop and update legal frameworks that address unique aspects of freelancing and AI integration, including intellectual property rights, data privacy, labor laws, and ethical AI use.

Social Safety Nets: Design social safety nets for freelancers, providing access to healthcare, pension plans, and unemployment benefits, similar to those available to traditional employees. Offer tax incentives or grants to encourage the growth of the freelance sector and the adoption of AI technologies.

Education and Training Initiatives: Fund and support training programs focused on digital literacy, AI, and other emerging technologies. This is crucial for preparing the workforce for the changing nature of jobs.

Promoting Digital Infrastructure: Invest in robust digital infrastructure to ensure widespread access to high-speed internet and technological tools, which are essential for a digital workforce.

Encouraging Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Provide incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, including tax benefits, grants, and startup accelerators, to support freelancers and small businesses.

Promoting Fair Practices: Monitor and prevent monopolistic practices by large tech companies in the AI and freelance marketplace to ensure fair competition.

Public-Private Partnerships: Foster partnerships between the public sector, private companies, and academia to drive research, innovation, and training in relevant fields.

International Collaboration: Engage in global discussions and agreements to manage cross-border issues related to freelancing and AI, such as data privacy, taxation, and worker rights.

Tall Tree In Meadow, Stable Diffusion (September 2022)

Roles for Educational Institutions

Educational institutions will form the backbone of change, helping new and existing freelancers gain the skills they will need in the marketplace. They can also be a force for positive social change, ushering in ethical, well-informed policies and practices.

Curriculum Evolution: Redesign educational curriculums to include skills vital for success in a freelance and AI-driven economy, such as digital literacy, AI ethics, entrepreneurship, and cross-disciplinary skills.

Lifelong Learning Programs: Offer lifelong learning and continuous skill development, offering modular courses, online learning opportunities, and micro-credentials.

Interdisciplinary Approach: Promote an interdisciplinary approach to education, blending technology, arts, and humanities, to prepare students for diverse roles and collaborative work environments.

Industry and Community Collaboration: Collaborate with industries and AI community groups to provide practical, hands-on experience through internships, apprenticeships, and joint projects, aligning education with real-world demands.

Research and Development: Conduct research on the impacts of AI and freelancing on the workforce and economy, providing insights to guide policy and practice. Innovate in AI technology, ensuring its development is aligned with ethical standards and societal needs.

Career Counseling and Support Services: Offer career counseling and resources focused on freelancing, including guidance on building a portfolio, networking, and navigating the gig economy. Provide practical training on personal branding, financial management, and contract negotiation.

Promoting Ethical Practices: Educate students about the ethical implications of AI and the importance of responsible usage, ensuring they emerge as informed practitioners and consumers of technology.

Governments and educational institutions will be pivotal in shaping a resilient and equitable ecosystem that thrives on innovation and freelance work. Their proactive and coordinated efforts can help ensure that this transition leads to a more inclusive, innovative, and sustainable future of work. By embracing these roles, these entities can help navigate the challenges and maximize the opportunities presented by the evolving landscape of freelancing and AI.

Matryoshkas, Midjourney (August 2023)

Freelancer Cooperatives

The development of freelancer associations, collectives, and cooperatives, as well as online communities and professional networks, will be crucial in the evolving freelancer-centric ecosystem. These entities will serve various essential functions, fostering a supportive, collaborative, and sustainable environment for freelancers. Here’s how I envision their development and the roles they will play:


Professional Advocacy and Representation: These groups will represent freelancers’ interests in policy discussions, ensuring that their voices are heard in legislative processes. They can negotiate better terms with platforms and clients, advocating for fair pay, intellectual property rights, and ethical work conditions.

Community Building and Networking: By fostering a sense of community, these organizations can facilitate networking opportunities, allowing freelancers to connect, share resources, and collaborate on projects. They can organize events, workshops, and meetups for skill sharing, professional development, and social interaction.

Resource and Benefit Provision: Associations can provide members with access to resources like legal assistance, tax advice, insurance, and healthcare plans – benefits often lacking in freelance work. They could offer training programs and resources to help freelancers stay current with industry trends and technologies.

Standard Setting and Quality Assurance: Setting industry standards and best practices will help maintain a high quality of work and professionalism within the freelance community. They could establish certification or accreditation programs to validate skills and expertise.

Collective Bargaining and Conflict Resolution: These groups can engage in collective bargaining for better rates and working conditions. They can also provide mediation and conflict resolution services for disputes between freelancers and clients.


Knowledge Sharing and Support: Online platforms are ideal for sharing knowledge, advice, and experiences. They can host forums, Q&A sessions, webinars, and mentorship programs. Peer support through these networks can be invaluable, especially for those new to freelancing.

Collaboration and Project Opportunities: These networks can facilitate collaboration, helping freelancers find partners for projects or team up to tackle larger assignments. They can also serve as marketplaces for finding new clients and project opportunities.

Brand Building and Marketing: Professional networks and guilds can help freelancers establish their brand and market their services more effectively. Showcasing portfolios, sharing success stories, and receiving endorsements or reviews within these networks can enhance a freelancer’s credibility and visibility.

Global Connectivity: Online communities bring together freelancers from around the world, enabling cross-cultural exchanges, global networking, and access to international markets.

These organizations will help navigate the challenges of freelance work, such as isolation, lack of benefits, and market fluctuations, while also capitalizing on its strengths like flexibility, diversity, and innovation. They will provide a foundation of support, advocacy, and collaboration that is essential for individual freelancers to thrive. By fostering a strong sense of community and providing essential resources and opportunities, these entities will play a pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable and prosperous freelance landscape.

Late Afternoon, Midjourney (January 2024)

The Coming Decade

Looking ahead into the next decade, the role of freelancers and AI tools in the commercial creative sector is poised for significant evolution. The landscape will be shaped by technological advancements, changing market demands, and the increasing integration of AI in various aspects of creative work. Here are some anticipated changes.


Greater Integration of AI Tools: AI tools will become more sophisticated, intuitive, and integrated into the creative process. They will offer more nuanced and advanced functionalities, enabling freelancers to create higher quality work with greater efficiency. AI might be used for tasks ranging from initial concept generation to final touches, across various creative fields like graphic design, writing, video production, and music composition. They will be used not only for efficiency but also for unlocking new creative possibilities and innovations.

Widespread Adoption and Normalization: Freelance work, bolstered by AI tools, will become a more widely accepted and standard mode of employment. Companies will increasingly rely on a blend of permanent staff and freelancers.

Expanded Creative Possibilities: As AI tools evolve, they will open up new creative possibilities that are currently difficult or impossible to achieve manually. This could include the creation of entirely new forms of multimedia content, interactive experiences, or personalized art and narratives.

Democratization of Creative Skills: AI tools will continue to lower the barrier to entry for many creative professions, allowing individuals with less formal training to produce high-quality work. This democratization will likely lead to a more diverse range of voices and perspectives in the creative sector.

Rise of Micro-Entrepreneurship: More individuals will adopt micro-entrepreneurial approaches, managing personal brands and leveraging online platforms to market a wide array of creative services and products, all facilitated by AI-driven tools for business management, marketing, and customer engagement.

Shifts in Job Roles and Skills: Traditional job roles in the creative sector may evolve or give way to new ones, with an increased focus on managing and directing AI tools rather than performing all tasks manually. Skills in AI tool management, creative direction, and digital collaboration will become increasingly important. As technology evolves, new creative roles and industries that we can’t yet imagine will emerge. Freelancers will be at the forefront of exploring and defining these new frontiers.

Increased Specialization: Freelancers will likely become more specialized, offering niche skills and services. This specialization will be driven by both market demand and the personal interests of freelancers.

Hybrid Collaborative Models: We might see the emergence of hybrid models of collaboration, where freelancers, AI systems, and traditional in-house teams work together in more fluid and dynamic arrangements. This could lead to a blend of freelance and corporate work styles, with each drawing on the strengths of the other.

Ethical and Legal Evolutions: As AI plays a larger role in creative work, there will be a growing need for ethical guidelines and legal frameworks, particularly around issues like copyright, data privacy, and the authenticity of AI-generated content. This will require freelancers and businesses to stay informed and adapt to changing regulations.

Impact on Education and Training: Educational institutions and training programs will likely adapt to prepare upcoming generations of creatives for an AI-augmented workplace. This could include training in AI tool usage, digital collaboration, and cross-disciplinary skills blending technology and art.

Growth of Global Collaboration: The ease of remote collaboration and the rise of digital platforms will lead to a more globalized workforce. Freelancers will routinely collaborate across borders, leading to a rich exchange of ideas and cultural perspectives.


Innovation and Diversity: The infusion of diverse perspectives and AI-enabled creativity will drive innovation, leading to new genres, styles, and creative expressions.

Customization and Personalization: There will be a greater ability to produce highly customized and personalized creative work, catering to niche markets and individual preferences.

Creative Agencies: Traditional creative agencies might need to adapt by either incorporating more freelancers into their models or redefining their value propositions.

Shift in Skill Sets: Skills will shift from routine, manual tasks towards creativity, emotional intelligence, and managing AI collaborations. Continuous learning will be a key component of creative professions.


Economic Resilience: A more distributed and diversified workforce can contribute to economic resilience, as reliance on large corporations diminishes and income sources are more widespread.

Economic Impacts: The gig economy will become a more significant part of the global economy, contributing substantially to GDP in many countries. There might be a shift in economic power dynamics, with individual creators and small collectives gaining influence previously held by large corporations.

Challenges in Regulation and Governance: Governments will face challenges in adapting regulations and governance models to suit the new work paradigms, particularly in terms of taxation, labor laws, and intellectual property.

Educational and Training Needs: The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for this changing landscape, focusing on creativity, digital skills, and lifelong learning.

Increased Entrepreneurial Opportunities: The ecosystem will foster a culture of entrepreneurship, with more individuals creating and running their own businesses or projects. This could lead to a surge in innovation and economic dynamism.

Inequality and Access Issues: While the ecosystem offers many opportunities, there’s a risk of widening the gap between those with access to technology and skills and those without. Addressing digital divide issues will be crucial for inclusive growth.

Environmental Impact: The reduced need for commuting and physical office spaces in this ecosystem could positively impact the environment. However, the energy demands of advanced technologies, including AI, will necessitate a focus on sustainable practices.

Cultural and Creative Capital: The increased diversity and volume of creative output can enrich cultural and creative capital globally, influencing everything from entertainment and media to design and architecture.

Changes in Work Culture and Employment Models: There will be a greater emphasis on flexibility, work-life balance, and autonomy in work culture. Employment models will need to adapt, with changes in benefits, job security, and career progression paths.

Educational and Policy Reforms: Education systems will need to adapt, focusing more on skills like digital literacy, creativity, entrepreneurship, and lifelong learning. Policies around labor laws, taxation, healthcare, and social security will evolve to accommodate the growing freelance workforce.

Societal Shifts: There will be a cultural shift in perceptions of work, success, and career paths, with more value placed on flexibility, independence, and work that aligns with personal values and lifestyles. The distinction between professional and personal life may blur further, with more people pursuing work that closely aligns with their passions and interests.

Innovation and Economic Diversification: The ecosystem will foster a culture of innovation, where freelancers can quickly adapt to market changes and explore new creative avenues. This could lead to economic diversification and resilience. Small-scale entrepreneurship and collaborative projects will flourish, potentially leading to a more distributed and resilient economy.

Challenges and Adjustments: As the ecosystem grows, challenges such as market saturation, income disparity, and maintaining work-life balance will become more pronounced. Addressing these will require conscious efforts from individuals, communities, and governments. The traditional notions of job security and career progression will be redefined, requiring a societal shift in how work and success are perceived.

In the long term, this evolving ecosystem promises to reshape the creative industry and the broader economy, offering a landscape rich in innovation, diversity, and flexibility. However, it also brings challenges that will need to be navigated thoughtfully. The implications of this evolution will touch on every aspect of work and life, requiring adaptive strategies from individuals, businesses, educational institutions, and governments. As the boundaries between technology, creativity, and entrepreneurship continue to blur, this ecosystem has the potential to drive significant economic and cultural transformations.

Into The Future, Midjourney (January 2024)

Advice on Exploring Your Creativity with Generative AI

Finally, if you are eager to explore your creative talents using generative AI tools, here is some advice to help make the most of this exciting journey:

Start with Curiosity and Open-mindedness: Approach AI tools with a sense of curiosity and an open mind. Be prepared to experiment and explore various possibilities that these tools offer. Remember, AI can be a partner in your creative process, offering new perspectives and ideas.

Learn the Basics of the AI Tools: Gain a basic understanding of how these AI tools work. While you don’t need deep technical knowledge, knowing the fundamentals can help you use these tools more effectively and understand their capabilities and limitations.

Blend AI with Your Unique Perspective: While AI tools can generate impressive results, the real magic happens when you infuse your personal touch. Use AI as a starting point or a collaborator, but add your own ideas, experiences, and creativity to make the output truly yours.

Integration of Diverse Skills: The fields of software and interactive design often require a blend of technical skills, artistic sensibility, and user-centric thinking. This multidisciplinary approach is incredibly beneficial when working with AI in creative contexts. It allows for a more holistic understanding of how different elements, be it visual or textual, come together to form a cohesive and impactful piece.

Experiment and Embrace Failure: Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. AI tools can produce unexpected results, which can be a part of the learning process. Sometimes, these ’mistakes’ can lead to new creative insights or directions.

Problem-Solving and Creativity: In software development and product design, problem-solving is a key skill. This skill is equally vital in creative endeavors. Approaching artistic creation with a problem-solving mindset can lead to innovative and unconventional solutions, whether in resolving a compositional challenge in an image or devising a unique narrative twist in a story.

Future-Oriented Perspective: Working in tech, especially with emerging technologies, cultivates a future-oriented mindset. This perspective is crucial when exploring the potentials of generative AI in art and literature. It helps in envisioning new possibilities, pushing the boundaries of traditional methods, and imagining how these tools can shape the future of creative expression.

Collaboration Between Human and Machine: The artistic process with AI is a collaborative dance between human creativity and machine intelligence. My technical knowledge helps me lead this dance, using AI as a tool to extend my creative capabilities. It’s about harnessing AI’s efficiency and speed while applying human judgment, creativity, and technical expertise to produce something unique.

Stay Informed About Developments: The field of generative AI is rapidly evolving. Try to stay informed about new tools, techniques, and best practices. This can involve joining online communities, attending workshops, or following industry leaders and innovators on social media.

Balance AI Use with Skill Development: While leveraging AI, continue to develop your own skills and knowledge in your area of interest. This ensures that your creativity is not solely dependent on AI and that you maintain a strong foundation in your craft.

Explore Ethical and Legal Considerations: Be mindful of the ethical and legal aspects of using generative AI, especially regarding copyright, originality, and data privacy. Understanding these aspects is crucial to responsibly using AI in your creative endeavors.

Collaborate and Share Your Work: Engage with a community of like-minded individuals who are also exploring AI in creative fields. Collaboration can lead to a richer creative experience and provide opportunities for feedback and growth.

Keep the Human Element Central: Always remember that technology is a tool to express human creativity, not a replacement for it. Your unique perspective, emotions, and experiences are what will make your AI-assisted creations stand out.

Have Fun and Be Patient: Lastly, have fun with your creative exploration and be patient. Learning to effectively use AI tools can take time, and the creative process itself is often as important as the end result.

It’s an exciting future—let’s go grab it!


charles blass

Thank you for reading! The next edition will be published on 15 May 2024. Email Pete with suggested submissions.

Grateful appreciation and many thanks to Charles Blass, Patti Cobian, Wendy Elford, Ken Homer, and Kevin Jones for their kind contributions to this issue.

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