Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Google Society and the Snowflake Effect for Wise Old Men

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to talk to the emeriti forum of my university.

(If you don’t know, ’emeritus’ is a sort of sophisticated word for … I guess ‘retired’ – but with more of an emphasis on the fact that you have to earn that title through a distinguished career. I think we should use that kind of words more often!)

This was a distinct pleasure indeed, because I rarely get the opportunity to talk to folks in my own university and the audience consisted mainly of Wise Old Men – not surprisingly, there were very few women… Almost all of my talks at the university are to students less than half my age, so it was kind of refreshing to be myself only half the age of many in the audience ;-)!

Moreover, the event was very well organized: we had two preparation meetings to discuss the goals of the event; a nice lunch was organized to continue the discussion – and I much appreciated the two bottles of wine to take home, including one of my favorite ones (a Chilean Carmenere, if you’re interested)!

The event focused on the ‘google society’. As the slides hopefully illustrate, I talked about abundance as one of the core characteristics of the google society, the difficulties that leads to in terms of choice and how the Snowflake Effect can help to address that problem.

The second speaker focused more on ethical aspects. One of the topics he touched upon is how we have come to (mis-)understand privacy as secrecy, not unlike the way the Victorians dealt with sexuality: a theme that I’d like to read more about…

The audience asked some really good questions, about how for instance the legal system can deal with the google society – we used to rely on the law in order to control the balance of power, but it is quite unclear how that system can be deployed in a high-tech world.

Another good question challenged the notion of ‘knowledge as raw materials’ that is often present in much of the EU documents. Maybe we should talk more about information in this context, and remember the difference between information, knowledge and wisdom!

Yet another question related to how technology can be both employed to control individuals as well as to empower them. How do we make sure the benefit of empowerment outweighs the danger of control?

Maybe the only question I felt less impressed by was the one about Internet addiction: I replied, quite sincerely, that my parents were quite concerned when I was about sixteen that I was addicted too … to books!

Still – these were not just old men, they were pretty wise! And, on a deeper level, I much enjoyed the continued passion they showed for the Bigger Questions. In the conversations afterwards, it was very clear that they were as energetic and eager to discuss research questions as I have ever been – in fact more so than some of my junior colleagues!

I have only the deepest respect and gratitude for having been allowed to spend some time in their company! But I do hope there will be more Wise Old Women by the time I retire…

(Originally at Erik’s blog…)

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Snowflaking the Cloud

Dumping my laptop for…a server?

February 1st, 2010

Posted by Christopher Dawson @ 2:15 am

Essentially, I’ve been saving for a high-end laptop/desktop replacement that could handle virtualization, lots of storage, video editing, you name it. My MacBook just isn’t cutting it anymore. So what does that have to do with the iPad, or any other tablet for that matter?  An idea I’d first discussed with fellow ZDNet blogger, Jason Perlow: “The Screen.” and everything the iPad represents means that lugging around one of those slick Core i7 laptops I’ve been eying up is probably a recipe for obsolescence….

Here is an interesting post from Christopher Dawson who also has

Posted via email from Learnativity

Mass Production Is Back! It’s Called Peer Production

One of the better blogs I follow is the ZDNet "Enterprise Web 2.0" by Dion Hinchcliffe, and his recent posting “What will power next-generation businesses?,” notes the critical role that peer production will play in next-generation businesses. According to Dion:

"This is a new Internet-powered business landscape. Self-organizing peer production is the motive force and network effects are the new market share.

“Peer production as the most efficient and richest source of value creation. Centralized production has value but it’s greatly limited when you can tap into the vast capabilities of the global network for mutual benefit. The network will always greatly outnumber your resources. The problem is that traditional means of enlisting contribution (employment) won’t work, something new will be required.”

After reading his posting, it struck me that in many ways this is essentially the information age replacement for mass production. It also qualifies well for my list of questions in my OCOT entry "What if the Impossible Isn’t?", and of course this all lies at the heart of my conviction that The Snowflake Effect is well on its way. 

I previously pointed out another good entry Dion wrote "Twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy" and his most recent post (Dec.21, 2009) provides a great summary of his "ZDNet’s Enterprise Web 2.0: The top 10 posts of 2009"

They are both well worth reading!

Wayne

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Printing Organs on Demand

This posting on DarkGovernment.com easily makes it onto my "What if the Impossible Isn’t?" list!!

3D Bio-Printer: Printing Organs on Demand

December 21, 2009 Medical Issues, Technology No Comments

3D Bio-Printer in Action

An engineering firm has developed a 3D bio-printer that could one day be used to create organs on demand for organ replacement surgery. The device is already capable of growing arteries and its creators say that arteries “printed” by the device could be used in heart bypass surgery in as little as five years. Meanwhile, more complex organs such as hearts, and teeth and bone should be possible within ten years.

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Snowflake Sunglasses?

 Snap and Search (No Words Needed)

By MIGUEL HELFT   New York Times, Published: Dec. 19, 2009

A phone using the Google Goggles application snaps a picture of the London Eye, left, and gets results at right.

Andrew Winning/Reuters

THE world, like the World Wide Web before it, is about to be hyperlinked. Soon, you may be able to find information about almost any physical object with the click of a smartphone.  Vic Gundotra, a Google vice president, says the goal is “to recognize every image.”

This vision, once the stuff of science fiction, took a significant step forward this month when Google unveiled a smartphone application called Goggles. It allows users to search the Web, not by typing or by speaking keywords, but by snapping an image with a cellphone and feeding it into Google’s search engine.

How tall is that mountain on the horizon? Snap and get the answer. Who is the artist behind this painting? Snap and find out. What about that stadium in front of you? Snap and see a schedule of future games there.

Goggles, in essence, offers the promise to bridge the gap between the physical world and the Web.

Yet another good example for the "What If the Impossible Isn’t" list.  This new tool from Google called "Goggles" (say that 5 times quickly!) let’s you find information about anything you can see by simply pointing your camera (phone) at it.  The name Goggles seems very appropriate to me as this literally provides a new lens through which we can see and learn so much more about the "real" or physical world of bits around us. 

Fast forward a few more months/years and I can see (sorry couldn’t help it) us having this capability embedded into our "regular" eye glasses and then perhaps as a set of contact lenses or embedded lenses in our eyes such that we would be able to see any and all relevant information layered on top of anything (or anyone) we are looking at.

In the future, instead of wearing sunglasses to protect us from the glare of the sun, we’ll all be wearing a pair of "information glasses" to protect us from the overwhelming glare of information and filter in just what is relevant for us?  The perfect pair of "just right" Snowflake sunglasses that give us just the right information at just the right time, in just the right place, and so on.

In essence Goggles is also yet another form of  Augmented Reality or AR where additional information is layered on top of the real reality, hence augmented reality.  Though it has been envisioned and worked on for decades, AR is seeing a tremendous increase in attention and hype this past year, but also some very real here and now applications.  Watch for another post soon on more of these examples of Augmented Reality.

In addition to the fact that this is yet another example for my theme of "What if the Impossible Isn’t?" and the premature arrival of the future because it is already available NOW, the most exciting thing for me about these recent AR advancements is the degree to which they help me satisfy some of my infinite curiosity of the world around me.  I wander and wonder a lot, so now as I look at something and wonder “What is that called?” or “When/where was that made?” or “How tall is that?”, I can see some of the factual answers to such questions my just looking at them through these AR lenses.  I don’t have a good head for remembering facts and figures and most other details to say nothing of the great amount of things I see which are completely new to me and I know nothing about.  So having ready and immediate access to this information enables me to put my little brain to work at wondering and pondering some of the other bigger questions.  And of course all of this adds more rocket fuel to propel me faster and further along the exciting exponential path of learning where the more you learn the more questions you have.

I’ve been observing for many years now that we’ve essentially spent the better part of the past millennia working on augmenting our physical capabilities and limitations with the likes of machines and technology, and that we are now beginning what I’m sure will be the next millennia working on augmenting our cognitive capabilities/limitations.  While but a baby step perhaps, the recent increase in AR apps such as Goggles is certainly a way I intend on augmenting my reality and my cognitive capabilities and limitations.

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3D Printing Your Own Body Parts

I received a lot of comments about my previous posting on the up and coming application of 3D printing to build new human organs. Here is another article on treehugger.com with more details and video.

Kinko's for Kidneys: 3D Printing Your Own Body Parts

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 12.22.09

3D printing to order is a regular subject on TreeHugger; we love the idea of making things when you need them, where you need them. And soon you will be able to order up body parts, at a sort of Ponoko for pancreas. Now people sit on waiting lists, hooked up to expensive equipment while they wait for donors and fly body parts all over the world; soon you will order them up fresh and hot. Perhaps, like Philip K. Dick did, we might even call them artif-orgs.

There is some good explanation of the technique in this posting on SmartPlanet.

This stuff easily makes it onto my "What if the Impossible Isn't?" list for the year!

All of this adds to my conviction that the big change required to make the most difference in the world is to check and change our historic baselines and assumptions.  To switch from thinking that we need to plan within the constraints of what we think is possible and increasingly design and strategize with the assumption that most anything IS possible, or soon will be.  We need to be more imaginative, more creative, more demanding than ever in the increasingly unconstrained world of abundance which more and more of us are privileged to live within.

Think about it.  What if the impossible isn't?  What, if it were possible, and would have the most positive and profound affect on your profession, your world?  What will you do when it is possible?  Are you ready?

— Wayne

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3D Printing Your Own Body Parts

I received a lot of comments about my previous posting on the up and coming application of 3D printing to build new human organs. Here is another article on treehugger.com with more details and video.

Kinko's for Kidneys: 3D Printing Your Own Body Parts

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 12.22.09

3D printing to order is a regular subject on TreeHugger; we love the idea of making things when you need them, where you need them. And soon you will be able to order up body parts, at a sort of Ponoko for pancreas. Now people sit on waiting lists, hooked up to expensive equipment while they wait for donors and fly body parts all over the world; soon you will order them up fresh and hot. Perhaps, like Philip K. Dick did, we might even call them artif-orgs.

There is some good explanation of the technique in this posting on SmartPlanet.

This stuff easily makes it onto my "What if the Impossible Isn't?" list for the year!

All of this adds to my conviction that the big change required to make the most difference in the world is to check and change our historic baselines and assumptions.  To switch from thinking that we need to plan within the constraints of what we think is possible and increasingly design and strategize with the assumption that most anything IS possible, or soon will be.  We need to be more imaginative, more creative, more demanding than ever in the increasingly unconstrained world of abundance which more and more of us are privileged to live within.

Think about it.  What if the impossible isn't?  What, if it were possible, and would have the most positive and profound affect on your profession, your world?  What will you do when it is possible?  Are you ready?

— Wayne

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Beyond Realtime Search: The Dawning Of Ambient Streams

This post about Ambient Streams is well worth reading. I agree with much of this, although my vision is a bit different, with much more focus on context, feedback loops, etc. I like and have been speaking about this general notion of being surrounded by this "ambient cloud" of not just digital information but also the "Internet of things" and the very real and physical world. As the article says:

“When trying to understand something potentially transformative, knowing what questions to ask is more than half the challenge. We are still in the early stages of these changes and don’t yet have the necessary metaphors to make the leap into the future. It is for that purpose that I want to suggest what I consider to be the building blocks of our next big evolutionary leap in how we use technology. The four main building blocks are:

  1. Realtime Web (Twitter, news flows, world events, and other information which relates to changes in the world)
  2. Published Information (sites, blogs, Wikipedia, etc.)
  3. Geolocation Data (your location and information layers related to it, including your past locations and that of your friends, as well as geo-tagged media)
  4. Social Communications (social graph updates, IMs, emails, text messages, and other forms of signal from your friends).

Before these building blocks can create an ambient stream which is not overwhelming, all of this data needs to pass through a filter. The Holy Grail is a filter which only serves up information which is relevant based on who you are, your social graph, what you or your friends are doing now, what you or friends have done before, and in context of other information you are consuming. It needs to be delivered wherever you are and on whatever device or display can deliver the ambient stream: mobile phone, laptop computer, TV, heads-up display in vehicle or inside your glasses. The future of how ambient streams might enter our world is illustrated with the following simplistic diagram:”

via www.techcrunch.com

I don't see the filter as the Holy Grail as per this article, and see it more as advanced degrees of decision support that help me make better, smarter, faster decisions and lead to more serendipitous discovery. Still, the article is well worth the read just so you can see what your take on this is.

–Wayne

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Unlikely Ukulele Uniqueness

You wouldn’t expect anything less than eclectic from me or Off Course – On Target, so here is the latest addition to my “What if the Impossible Isn’t?” list. My mission is to have us all change our baseline assumption to be that almost anything is possible.

The TED videos (and BoingBoing) are great sources of examples showing us how the impossible isn’t.

WARNING:  TED videos have proven to be addictive!

TED has recently released the teaser of who we will be seeing and hearing from in the TED2010 program guide

For one example of what you can expect in 2010, check out the music and passion coming from a young ukulele player named Jake Shimabukuro.  Yes, that’s right—a ukulele player!  Think you don’t like the ukulele or know what “that kind of music” sounds like?  Check out some of Jake’s YouTube videos such as the one below and see this example of how “the impossible isn’t” as he literally makes those four little strings dance and sing.  Best if you watch a few of these to see the diversity of sounds and songs from Thriller to Over the Rainbow to Let’s Dance.

I picked out the following performance of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which takes place by a stream in Central Park .

Some of his concert performances are particularly worth watching to get more of a sense of the person behind the music (see below).

Almost more than the music, I love the passion and the commitment to change the way we think of this instrument and perhaps music in general. Well worth a look and listen, though with the usual caveats and warnings that you are likely to spend more time there and learn more than you expect.  And that’s part of the good news and the gift!  Enjoy!

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Future Interfaces

In their recent posting “Where’s my Jet Pack? Apple Tablet and Future Interfaces”, ReadWriteWeb has a good overview of some of 2009’s more creative examples of what interfaces might look like in the future. This provides more examples and some answers to my ongoing question “What if the impossible isn’t?”

Some of these examples have received a lot of press this year, and so you may already be familiar with them.  However I think it is well worth your time to read and watch some of these videos, not only to get a sense of what is and will be possible, but to increase our collective curiosity and ignite more imagination around how, where, and for what we will use such enabling technology. None of these developments will amount to much unless we are better prepared to take advantage of them as they arrive to help drive the research and development towards useful productive ends. We need to continue to dissolve the distance between ourselves, the technology, and the world within which we live—both virtual and physical.

I’d recommend you watch and ponder them all. Here’s one to get you started:

Pulp-Based Computing: While there’s little information on these projects just yet, one thing is clear. The folks in MIT’s Media Lab Fluid Interfaces Group are exploring electrically active inks and fibers during the paper making process to create a new form of paper-based computing. Apparently the paper would react in the same way as regular paper; however, it would also carry digital information. While the project is only in its early stages and appears to be hooked up to a basic Arduino prototyping platform, theoretically this could be used to create a new type of Wacom tablet. Remember when Steven Levy wrote about losing his Macbook Air? A paper interface would take some serious getting used to.

I’ve been championing “true digital paper” for about 20 years now, where traditional pulp-based paper is mixed with “digital goo” that adds new properties for display, control, and other input/outputs, so this MIT development has been especially interesting to me.

See what you think. In a future post, I’ll talk about some of my thoughts on where this might lead.

— Wayne

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