Archive for the ‘recommended reading’ Category

Snowflake Effect on Financial Industry set to Double in 2012

Many of you were intrigued by some of my former postings such as Snowflakes Effect Hits Financial Models: Snowflakes funding Snowflakes  about how the Snowflake Effect of mass personalisation is affecting the financial world and in particular with loans and investments.  Some wondered if this was just a few random examples but I think this recent overview on TechCrunch shows that this is already building into a full fledged snowstorm with what they refer to as “crowdfunding” having reached 1.5 Billion dollars already and set to double this year.

The funding of projects by individual snowflakes is another example of both the Snowflake Effect on financial matters such as the example of the “Pebble” watch I wrote about in Snowflake Wrists?.  When I wrote about this Pebble watch that is one of the projects on Kickstarter two weeks ago they had already blown past their $100k goal by raising $2.6 million, as of today (May 8) they are about to pass the 10 million dollar mark!  Kickstarter is “a funding platform for creative projects” and their blog recently had this “Blockbuster Effects” article which highlighted two other projects and answered the questions “Do more projects mean competition for the same dollars?” and “Are these projects stealing backers from other worthy projects?” by showing that in fact these have the opposite effect as both the overall funding and project numbers continue to grow dramatically.  The full and abridged versions of the “Crowdfunding Industry Report” are available at the bottom of the TechCrunch article.

These are but a few examples that confirm what Erik Duval and I have been evangelizing for many years now, that The Snowflake Effect is a profoundly pervasive revolution which is affecting almost all parts of our lives on a global scale.  There are over 7 billion of us snowflakes on the planet and as each one of us takes on the responsibility and control of our lives, love and learning, the results are going to be staggering.


Snowflakes Effect Hits Financial Models: Snowflakes funding Snowflakes

The evidence that the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization is continuing to build at an exponential rate continues to show up just about everywhere I look. One dimension of the Snowflake Effect that has not received a lot of discussion yet is the financial side if the story; how will the mind boggling numbers of personalized solutions needed every day be funded?  What are the new financial and business models going to be in a Snowflake Effected world?  If as I believe more and more of us are going to become designers and producers and creators by making our own “stuff”, and especially if others are asking us to make and share some for them, how will we pay for this?   Well, why not apply the Snowflake Effect to funding itself?

Microtizing Finance, Credit & Loans

In fact this the Snowflake Effect has already hit funding models already and we are seeing more and more examples and growth of these wild new models.  One of the hallmarks of the Snowflake Effect is breaking things down into very small components whether that be each of us as unique individuals or each unique moment in time or small parts that can be reused and reassembled into infinite numbers of unique new assemblies Lego block style.  This same “microtization” trend is increasingly taking hold of financial models and enabling each of us 7 billion plus snowflakes to not only become designers, creators and producers, we are also becoming financers and funders. 

One example you have likely heard of and many of you are already participating in is that of microloans, microfinance and microcredit.  Essentially this is where once snowflake can loan small amounts of money to another snowflake or individual cause.  As is often the case this is not a new idea or invention but what is new is the scale and reach of these models.  Back in 2006 Kevin Kelly posted this good overview of “Micro-Loans Online” which he introduced by saying:

This year the father of micro-finance and founder of the Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in inventing and promoting micro-loans in the developing world. A micro-loan is as little as a few hundred dollars invested into a one-person business with minimal qualifications. That tiny borrowed amount can launch a vegetable stand, repair shop, or bicycle taxi — a living in other words. As each micro-loan is repaid (and most are), the effects of that small goodness are amplified and leveraged by being loaned out and invested again and again. Micro-loans are the world’s only perpetual motion machines.

Snowflake Effect Hits in Financial Models in Developed Regions

Most of these micro loans and micro financing have been focused on dealing with poverty and developing regions and they continue to escalate in both numbers and positive effects.  Somewhat newer and greatly increasing the scope of this Snowflaking of financing is their application to the financing of individuals and small businesses in developed regions and markets.  One of the more noteworthy examples is Kickstarter  which has the tag line of “A new way to Fund & Follow Creativity” and bills itself as being “The world’s largest funding platform for creative projects”.  The model is essentially the same where anyone can pledge any amount, typically one to one hundred dollars, towards a specific project that someone has proposed on the site.  As they point out this is not about lending or investing as each project creator maintains complete control and ownership of their work.  Those who pledge money are also protected because no money changes hands unless the project reaches its funding goal within a set time.

You can check out the Kickstarter web site and Kickstarter blog for more information and examples of the enormous range of ideas, products and services being developed which include everything from software applications to games to art to books to home hardware.

How well is this working?  Well Kickstarter recently had a record setting day with two projects exceeding $1M each in pledges and $1.6M being pledged in 24 hours.  All this from individual snowflakes like you and me.  In fact they had quite the day as they also saw New York’s city council endorse the site as a way to highlight community projects that need funding

It was also noteworthy to me how different the two projects were that exceeded the $1M in pledges.  The TechCrunch review of this eventful day highlighted this nicely:

Often Kickstarter is thought of as a venue for people with very limited means but a good idea to execute that idea. The Elevate Dock is a good example of this.

But Double Fine is an established game studio with office space, employees, and many products under its belt? Why should it go to Kickstarter? Well, Tim Schafer explains that in the video, at least for this project: no publisher would go near a point and click adventure game, but they knew at least some people wanted it. Reasonable enough.

The question, really, is why we even question it. If people want to make something, and people want to fund it, why shouldn’t it be on Kickstarter? The easy stuff — cool accessories or small devices that need a little capital to get started — are just the first wave. Why not pothole repair on a neighbourhood street? Why not a new coffee shop? Why not a feature film? Some of these have been tried, no doubt, and perhaps failed — but the principle is sound:

If you want to make it, and others want you to make it, this is a way for you to connect.

Why not indeed!!  What if the impossible isn’t?

Snowflake Effects on Learning

As you can see then, the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization continues its exponential growth and influence on almost all aspects of our world.  For those of us who look at the world from the perspective of learning, my ongoing question and fascination is with how the needs for each of us as individuals and as societies are changing and being changed by the Snowflake Effect.  The personalization of learning itself such that each learning moment is more successfully and deeply personalized is happening at an equally exponential rate with more examples of this showing up every day.  However an even larger and multiplying effect is the need for a whole new set of skills, knowledge and competencies each of us snowflakes are going to require to survive and thrive in the rapidly evolving new snowflaked world we are creating and will live and learn in.

I fully realize that this all continues to sound unimaginably large and impossible.  And yet as the examples of financial models I’ve highlighted above show, we are surrounded daily by more and more examples of how the impossible isn’t.  The oxymoron of typical Snowflake Effect models that are infinitely scalable AND sustainable turns out to be true!  Or as Kevin Kelly put it; “Micro-loans are the world’s only perpetual motion machines.” 

Add enough snowflakes together with these kinds of models and you have a perpetuating avalanche of invention, discovery, creativity, production and happiness.

Getting to “just right” getting closer

A recent posting on TechCrunch “Check-Ins, Geo-Fences, And The Future Of Privacy” had a good summary of the balancing act between privacy and geo-location and worth a quick read.  The addition location related information is a key component to the critical addition of context required by the the Snowflake Effect principal of getting things “just right” as in just the right stuff to just the right person at just the right time on just the right device in just the right way.  However there is, and likely always will be, the need to keep this location based information in context itself so that your location information is being used when you want it, with whom you want it and where it will add value.  And it can’t require too much explicit input or action on our part as we simply won’t remember and won’t take the time and trouble to do so all the time which severely reduced the value for us and others.  So we need all the help we can get to help us make smart decisions and do so as automatically as possible yet all the while maintaining the various levels of control each of us will want, which in itself is a context based “it depends” type decision that is constantly changing.

And we are getting more and more help with all these decisions from many sources and each of us have an growing army of support in the form of other people and all their input as well as devices that are finally beginning to gain some “smarts” and be able to do more than what we explicitly tell them to do.

It was therefore most interesting to me to read the comment:

As apps and mobile devices become more geo-aware, a balance will need to be struck between the over-sharing creepiness of constant location broadcasting in the background and the annoyance of the constant check-in chore. On Tuesday, at our Disrupt conference, Facebook’s VP of Product Chris Cox described a future where phones are “contextually aware” so that they can “check into flights, find deals at grocery stores,” and do other things for us at that right place, at the right time. “These things take a bunch of clicks now—it’s all wasting time,” he said. “The phone should know what we want.”

And in other location related news:

Latitude’s New Dashboard View Is Exactly What Passive Location Needs

Tweetdeck Adds Location Column, Integrates Foursquare

Friends Around Me IPhone/iPad App Lets You Interact With Friends Or Strangers, Just Like They Were Really There

Context and contextual awareness IS the next great frontier when it comes to technology advancements and the continued exponential rate the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization is increasing.


The Promise of a Personal Assistant is growing

I’ve long lamented the fact that for all the computing power we have at our avail, and in spite of it growing exponentially, it still seems that it is all quite “dumb” in terms of not knowing much about me, my situation, my habits, etc.  I wrote about this back in the 90’s that it was like having an assistant with no memory and no learning ability.  You had to teach them, each time, how to do everything you wanted them to do,  But it seemed inevitable that in the future we would see this change as computers and applications got smarter.  We’ve seen some progress in the years since but it has been mostly on that initial low and flat feeling part of exponential change and I think we are just about to hit the inflection or tipping point in this area. 

One indicator is the recent announcement below from Siri of their voice based assistant app.  It shows much promise and will help you see the distinction between mere voice recognition and voice based assistance. The assistance part comes when the app is able to not just recognize what you said but to interpret it and take actions as a result.  For example it hear you say “I’d like a table for two at Il Fornaio tomorrow night at 7.” and it will do everything from finding the closest Il Fornaio restaurant, display driving directions on a map and book the reservation for two.  There is still much work to be done to make this more ubiquitous and find ways of hooking into many other services, but it is a significant step towards true smart assistance that we all need and I’m optimistic that the exponential curve of the Snowflake Effect of mass customization and personalization continues to shoot every upward.

Siri Launches Voice-Powered iPhone ‘Assistant’

A new app invites you to command your iPhone in the same way that Captain Kirk addressed the Enterprise’s computer.

Siri's visual interface displays a transcription of what you say, then hands the data off to an appropriate web service or search engine.

Siri’s visual interface displays a transcription of what you say, then hands the data off to an appropriate web service or search engine.

Siri, an artificial intelligence-based voice-recognition startup, launched an iPhone app incorporating its technology on Friday. With the app running, you can address requests to your phone verbally, asking it things like, “Will it rain today?” or “Where is a good place for pizza nearby?” and “I’d like a table for two at Il Fornaio tomorrow night at 7.” The Siri app parses the sound, interprets the request, and hands it off to an appropriate web service, such as OpenTable, Yelp, CitySearch, and so on. It displays the results onscreen as it goes, giving you a chance to correct or adjust your request via onscreen taps.

It’s the most sophisticated voice recognition to appear on a smartphone yet. While Google’s Nexus One offers voice transcription capabilities — so you can speak to enter text into a web form, for instance — the Nexus One doesn’t actually interpret what you’re saying.

Read More

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See What if the Impossible Isn’t? in action

I believe it is now clear that the rate of most change is exponential and this certainly includes how technology is almost always on dual exponential curves of decreasing price and increasing performance.  We can therefore often see the future quite literally by looking towards the high end of the market where new products and technology are typically introduced.  Think for example of how much sooner we could have seen, especially when illuminated by the brilliance of hindsight, the coming of telephones, personal computers, mobile phones and most other innovations by looking at the first versions when they were introduced as very high priced products, with limited functionality and for limited markets. 

As the rate of change continues to increase exponentially we need to become better and better at not just seeing these as innovative technologies or products but to begin to imagine the impact, both positive and negative, on our lives, our behaviors, our learning and our society by getting better at imagining the impossible.  This is why I continue to wonder and ponder about WITII? “What if the impossible isn’t?”

It is in this light that I recommend you read the Singularity Hub blog for stories such as “Z Corp – The Lamborghini of 3D Color Printing and Scanning (Videos)”  Here is the lead in to the article:

While Z Corporation products are out of the price range for most individual users, they represent amazing technology that is commercially available to anyone. I doubt the average person even knows that 3D printing technology can produce color models in just hours. Likewise, 3D scanning an object is probably outside of the everyday citizen’s concerns. These products are still in the early generation paradigm: expensive and used almost exclusively in industry. But they won’t stay there. Technology gets cheaper and more democratic as it is improved, so we should look forward to a time when the kind of 3D printing and scanning we see in these videos would fit in anyone’s budget.

As this technology becomes more widespread and powerful, the ways we purchase and exchange goods are going to be different. When you shop online for a coffee mug, the vendor could just send you the CAD file, allowing you to print the mug rather than have it shipped. Free information (like open source design specs) will translate to free objects.

Even more than reading the article I would strongly encourage you to watch all the the videos embedded within (see but one example below) as they will truly open your eyes as to what is already possible and available to commercial business in the form of 3D printers and 3D scanners for use in the office and the field.  It will only be a matter of months before these levels of accuracy, color and materials are available at prices for the rest of us.  The question is will YOU be ready?  How will these types of capabilities affect you?  How will you take advantage of them?  How will these enablers help us all to find and release the promise within ourselves? 

Just keep asking and imagining “What if the impossible isn’t?”

3D Printing now in Stainless Steel

As I’ve noted previously one of the current limitations of 3D printing is the limited materials that can be used to print with, mostly plastic, paper, wax and others up to now.  The ability to create molds which can then be used to create castings of metals and other materials expands the range considerably but the ideal of course is to be able to create objects of any material.  And in keeping with what seems to be the norm where the rate of change is exponential, we are now much closer to this ideal now that 3D printing can be done in stainless steel.  The big news and change is not just that 3D printing can be done in stainless steel but that YOU can do it!  The article below will give you more details.

I’d also recommend reading this article for the note about how Shapeways has done such an admiral job of being very up front and clear about their service.  Read for example the Shapeways stainless steel page titled “expectation management.” I want to join Aaron in pointing this out as a great example that all companies and organizations would do well to emulate.  As Aaron put it:

I would like to take a moment and applaud Shapeways for having both guts and common sense. Listen up Internet, if you want to sell us something cool, put the limitations right up front.”

I can’t help but like a company with the tag line: “Passionate about creating”

Shapeways also has some excellent tutorials on their site (one included below) which are very instructive and well worth watching if you are as fascinated by this rapid evolution of 3D printing and DIY manufacturing. 

Overall I see these developments as some of the most compelling evidence of The Snowflake Effect and how we are headed for a future where we can increasingly realize the promise within us all as unique snowflakes by increasingly being the designers and creators of our the manufactured part of the world we live in.

Stainless Steel Printing from Shapeways

August 6th, 2009 by Aaron Saenz

As if 3D printing wasn’t cool enough, you can now “print” objects in stainless steel. That’s right, dust off your old Transformers designs, make room in the Monopoly box for a new piece, and get ready for the model budget at your office to sky-rocket. Shapeways, an European 3D printing website that has traditionally worked in plastics and resins, has upped its game by giving you the option to take your airy artistic concepts and fashion them into cold hard steel. Except for some reasonable constraints on size and detail there are no limits to what you can create. Even if you’re not a model enthusiast, stainless steel printing holds the promise of machines that can replicate themselves and build anything.

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10 Profoundly Personal Future Innovations

Here’s a list of innovations that really caught my attention as this list takes a refreshingly human and personal look at the future and also manages to live up to this headline of being both profound and innovative.  Well worth your time to read though I’ll warn you in advance that there are lots of links and each one is worth following and using up even more of your valuable time and attention.

Notice how many of the innovations featured in this list are already happening and add to my What if the impossible isn’t? list.  As you reflect upon what you read here I think you will see how this adds to my conviction around The Snowflake Effect and that our future is a giant snowstorm of extreme mass customization for every person every day by making everything deeply personal and unique.  Read on and see what you think?

10 Profound Innovations Ahead

By Jeremy Hsu TechNewsDaily
29 January 2010 1:11 PM ET

Space plane flying over Earth

Today’s world looks increasingly like the future. Robots work factory assembly lines and fight alongside human warriors on the battlefield, while tiny computers assist in everything from driving cars to flying airplanes. Surgeons use the latest technological tools to accomplish incredible feats, and researchers push the frontiers of medicine with bioengineering. Science fiction stories about cloning and resurrecting extinct animals look increasingly like relevant cautionary tales.

Snowflaked Behaviors: simple rules produce complex behaviors

I’ve long been fascinated by the whole field of emergent behavior and its links to serendipity and personalization.  With thanks to Harold Jarche (@hjarche), a fellow Canadian and serendipitous learner, for serendipitously finding and passing this set of examples on in his recent Tweet.  I can heartily encourage you to spend some time playing with several of the interactive examples that are linked in the article below.

If this the opening line in the article will a bit counter intuitive at first;

“A set of several simple rules leads to complex, intelligent behavior. While a set of complex rules often leads to a dumb and primitive behavior.”

but reflect on this and then go convince yourself by doing some experiential learning with the links to several fun activities in the article.

I often bring up this point and these examples when evangelizing the power and value of The Snowflake Effect and why I find simple examples such as LEGO blocks to in fact be very powerful metaphors as to how we can indeed have the infinite scalability that mass customization and personalization requires.  Think too for example how all the music in the world is based on a small number of notes and simple rules.

Please do take the time to try out some of the fun examples you will find in the linked article below and I think you too will be amazed at just how quickly complex behaviors emerge from such simple rules.

Simple Rules, Complex Systems and Software Development

March 23rd, 2009Michael DubakovLeave a commentGo to comments

Many complex systems are based on simple rules. A set of several simple rules leads to complex, intelligent behavior. While a set of complex rules often leads to a dumb and primitive behavior. There are many examples.

Ants Colony

How ants search for food? They do not have cell phones, cars and mini-markets near the nest. They should have something simpler to communicate.

Here is how ants work:

  1. Travel randomly  in search for food.
  2. Take a piece of food and head straight back to the nest. On the way back to the nest lay down an odor trail.
  3. Notify nestmates of the discovered food encouraging them to leave the nest. These newly recruited ants will follow the odor trail directly to the food source. In their turn, each ant will reinforce the odor trail until the food is gone.

Sounds simple? Take a look at this very nice ants colony model. Drop some food and enjoy the action.

Google News to Publishers: Let’s Make Love Not War

Mass personalization figures strongly into Google’s work on aggregating news and information and working with publishers to do so.  Interesting to me that they see mass personalization as a way of increasing efficiency.

“The other thing we have a broad interest in is personalization. Every time a reader looks at something and says ‘that’s not for me’ and moves on, there’s inefficiency in the system.”

If they are new to you, do checkout two new lab projects from Google for accessing news; Fast Flip and Living Stories

And click below to read and watch (embedded video) the full interview PBS’s Mark Glaser had with  Google’s Krishna Bharat and Josh Cohen:

PBS MediaShift by Mark Glaser, February 4, 2010

Google’s Krishna Bharat and Josh Cohen discussed the origins of Google News, and recent experiments such as Fast Flip and Living Stories. (Photo by Charlotte Buchen)

In the view of some traditional media execs, Google is a digital vampire or a parasite or tech tapeworm using someone else’s content to profit. As that rhetoric heated up in the past year, Google has responded not with equal amounts of invective but with entreaties to help publishers.