Tablet PC Thoughts

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Carver Mead @ Telecosm

Carver Mead is an amazing speaker ... I always love to hear him speak. Here at Telecosm he is the after dinner speaker, and the title of his talk is Science and Society: timing the crests and troughs of opportunity in life and science.

His talk started with a conversation about the vacuum tube, and how Edison created the foundation. He elaborated and explained the next series of experiments with vacuum tubes, and how they progressed, and eventually how this research led to the creation of the transistor. From there he progressed into a discussion about the discovery of the first superconductor. What makes his story telling so amazing is his presentation of the subject, his in-depth knowledge of the subject, and his ability to communicate so clearly.

It's funny to hear his mild disdain for Bohr and others who, in his words, discouraged alternative views of quantum physics. He jokes about how students today are not taught collective quantum systems, but instead a strange model of photons. He refers to his "little green book" as the source of learning about collective quantum effects. His little green book is titled: Collective Electrodynamics: Quantum Foundations of Electromagnetism ... I'm going to have a buy a copy.

He closed his presentation by referring to the few people, from his perspective, that are truly thinking again about physics at a different level ... from a different perspective ... instead of just blindly following the directions that were laid out decades ago.

Crappy Wireless @ Telecosm

I haven't been blogging ... since it was just too much of a pain. The wireless network here at Telecosm - of all places - was a complete joke this year! I've taken lots of notes, and will post when I get someplace that there is decent bandwidth ... like back in my room.

The guys from Tropos Networks were supposed to be providing wireless, however what they provided was crap. I had to argue with them on Tuesday to get them to even get it working ... and then it has been up and down for the last two days. When it was working, the bandwidth sucked.

It's amazing in this day and age, to be at a high-end conference that is talking about the Internet, and not be able to get high-speed wireless Internet access.

If I come next year, I'll be bringing all of my own equipment to provide wireless for the attendees!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Chris Anderson @ Telecosm

Chris Anderson was up next ... I saw him speak at eTech a while back. I actually sat next to him at eTech before he spoke ... although I didn't know it until he got up to speak.

He gave his Long Tail presentation, and there were some updated details. It's a insightful presentation that talks about one way that the Internet is allowing more companies to exploit the "long tail" ... the vast market that exists outside of the high-volume markets.

As he progressed through his thoughts, he brought up his Set of Three Forces ... something that I had forgotten:
  • Force 1: Democratize the production
  • Force 2: Lower the cost of consumption
  • Force 3: Connect consumers
As he talked about the first force, I got sidetracked as I explored the companies that he brought up - Flickr, Typepad, GarageBand, Movie Maker, Lulu. I had heard of the first three, couldn't find the fourth, and started to read about the last one - Lulu.

I like to think about this in the context of Agilix Labs and what we can offfer to students. Force 1 and Force 3 seem to be the easiest to pursue.

George Gilder and Telecosm 2005

I haven't been to Telecosm in years ... the last year that I registered was 2001 when 9/11 occurred and caused a lot of conferences to change their schedules. I'm here this year to catch up on the capitalist view of the world ... Forbes conferences are always impressive to me.

George Gilder did a brief introduction and kicked things off. He immediately went into a short story of how he met Ray Kurzweil ... and then invited him to the stage.

Ray told the story of his Telecosm introduction of The Age of Spiritual Machines. For anyone who has not read this book, I highly recommend it. Ray went on to explain how this led to his indepth research and study of the trends that he outlined, and how he is now using this as a foundation to forecast future trends ... 3, 5, and even 10 years out.

He spoke about how his research is getting very good at predicting longer range trends with surprising accuracy ... even being very conservative. His new book - being released today - is called The Singularity is Near. I got my copy here at the conference, and even had it signed by Ray after the evening session at the fireside chat. He indicated that information is becoming the most important aspect of computing.

It's funny seeing Ray just weeks after Accelerating Change 2005 ... he's giving (of course) almost the exact same presentation. It's always cool to hear though ... the constant reminder of exponential growth. His graphs including showing the Mass Use of Inventions - the World Wide Web being adopted far faster than the cell phone.

He had a great chart that showed the growth in supercomputing - measured by calculations per second (CPS) - and said that the estimates of the power of the human brain range from 10^14 to 10^16 CPS. His estimates on when we would reach that point were confirmed as being sooner when a group in Japan just annouced last week that they will attain 10^16 Calculations per second by 2010!

He next went to The Biotechnology revolution: the intersection of biology with information technology. He talked about the research into biology and what is now possible with new technolgies. RNA interference is a newer technique to turn-on and turn-off individual genes, and is now being widely tested and moving towards human trials. United Theraputics (Nasdaq: UTHR) is one company that Ray is involved with doing research in this area.

As Ray wrapped up, George and Ray went into a brief chat on stage. It was interesting to hear the difference in questions here at Telecosm. They were more economic based, and global society based - Where are the profits going to be made? Will America keep up? Will this solve global war issues? How will people deal with this radical growth? How will this be regulated? A great opening night!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Garage Blogging

I had to do it. Garage Blogging.

I was waiting for lunch to finish cooking, and so I was playing with my son, Sam, in the garage. While we were playing I was loading my truck with my tools for my after-lunch project ... I'm heading into Salt Lake City to work on installing a wireless set-up at an Internet Cafe. I had some stuff I had to check on-line, but Sam was having too much fun playing with his Spiderman Car. Wireless rules!

I grabbed my laptop from inside, and sat down out in the garage and got to work . .. what a nice day. I headed out to the front porch and thought about the amazing progress ... I'm no longer stuck to a desk to get some quick "global" work done ... I can work from my garage. Even though I live with technology ever day, some times it still hits me as truly amazing. Wild to think where we will be in the next 10 years.

I'll be at George Gilder's Telecosm conference this week ... I'll be blogging there. I haven't been to one of his conferences since 2000. In 2001 the events of 9/11 caused the conference to be cancelled. Since then, I've been too busy working on things. I'm really looking forward to this years conference.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Flash Falling Ragdoll

Flash is one of those amazing animation tools that sometimes ends up being used to create something very amusing ... I have to say that Pekka rocks. This Falling Ragdoll is too much! If she gets stuck, you can grab her with your mouse and pull her down through the balls ...

Ok ... I'm easily amused ...

Blogging Barrage

Sorry about the barrage of blogging this weekend ... I know that some of the posts might not have been completely applicable to the topic of this blog, however in my mind it all relates. I got some feedback from some folks that wanted to know what the heck I was thinking ... and others that really liked the diverse set of posts that I wrote.

I'll do my best to see if I can sort better in the future.

Playing with Croquet

Ok ... I have a new thing to explore and experiment with. After this weekend, I downloaded Croquet and it is pretty amazing. A very cool starting point for 3D synthetic worlds. I also started a new blog to post about my Croquet Experiences ... I'll be posting more as I learn more.

I'm going to go home and get this working on my projector ... I think it would be fun to explore with my kids ... see what we can do!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Next Up: Take-Home Thoughts @ AC2005

The final panel discussion here at Accelerating Change 2005 had quite a line-up of people:
  • George Gilder, Gilder Technology Report
  • Joichi Ito, Neoteny
  • Steve Jurvetson, DFJ
  • Beth Noveck, NY Law School
  • Rudy Rucker,Computer Scientist, Author
  • Cecily Sommers, PUSH
Steve Jurvetson is a local VC who has a lot of foresight and great analysis skills.

Cecily Sommers talked breifly about the two constants that they watch - change and human nature - which seem to forever dictate how things occur in the future. She mentioned that collaboration is one way that we can escape our fixed beliefs of the world, and maybe see new possibilities emerge from these collaborative conversations.

Joi impressed me with his thoughts yesterday, and he mentioned that he is very involved in non-profits. He really believes that the next phase of the growth of the internet is more and more growth from the edges ... not central authorities. He commented on the evolution away from the larger commercial players - from Microsoft, to the telcos, and even Hollywood - to continue to open things up. He commented on BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and how they are starting to do their own thing when it comes to the Internet.

Beth had three core points (as "the lawyer") that she realized from the conference - the brain (understanding the individual brain, and also the collective brain - the mind of the group), inviting more people from the arts, and lastlyhow to better use technology to serve social justice.

I'm a long fan of George Gilder and his ability to synthesize such a wide range of high-level topics. What he saw in the conference is that the growth curves that we are seeing - including Moore's Law - are actually learning curves. These are reflecting human progress, and learning is a core aspect of that learning. It's all about information.

Rudy was the final panalist to comment. He commented on his new book The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul ... and how everything breaks down to computation. I like the subtitle: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning Of Life, and How To Be Happy ... pretty good.

There was a breif discussion about Intelligent Design ... and I feel that George had some good comments on this. As Rudy had suggested that the entire universe is one huge computation, George suggested that a computer is intelligence ... which would make the universe a form of natural intelligence. It was interesting to hear this discussed ... I know that I have not heard enough of the debate to truly understand the theories in depth.

Of course Intellectual Property came up in the discussion, and I liked what Joi had to say which was that he is not against IP, but he knows that it has become very skewed from what the founding fathers had intended. He added that places like Brazil and China might be screwing up now, but they have the opportunity to look at things fresh ... to think about new models, or resetting them back to where they make sense.

There was a final discussion that explored the potential threats to all of humankind ... or a big portion of it ... by all of the technology that we are creating. How do we ensure that it is not used for "bad" purposes. Even the financial aspects of capitalism were debated ... even though it has brought huge gains to the countries that have embraced it. That was a close. I'm off to the airport!

Building the Metaverse @ AC2005 (Part II)

Philip Rosedale CEO of Linden Labs (the makers of Second Life) is now presenting his company and virtual world. He immediately went into a demonstration of Second Life ... walking around the virtual world, interacting with objects. He pulled a kiosk out of his pocket, and had it play a life streaming video, and then wandered around until he found other users. He quickly created some objects, took pictures, put the pictures on objects as a texture, and even showed some of the physics by linking objects and swinging them around.

I have heard there are weapons in Second Life, and he showed his pistol and shot at some things. The core server farm is 1200 machines, and they are using ~200Mbps of bandwidth. He indicated that the average is 70-80kbps per client machine. There are currently over 50,000 users, with ~10,00 unique users per day ... about ~3,000 at any one time.

The top in world avatar in making ~$150,000/year in Second Life, with many people making ~$100+ per month. I have to admit that I am very interested in these virtual worlds and the many potential revenue sourrces that might exist. Hmmmm ....

Building the Metaverse @ AC2005

I am intrigued by the growth of 3D virtual worlds, and this session is one that I have been looking forward to. David Smith of the Croquet Project started off in his demonstration of Croquet. Alan Kay and his Squeak project are both contributors to this work.

Croquet is a peer to peer collaborative 3D world. Avatars within the Croquet world can interact with objects, and the lower level messages are replicated within the peer group. He demonstrated this by manipulating some windows in the world, along with more complex objects. He also demonstrated stepping through a window ... a portal ... into a moon/mars scape. Moving through these portals allows the avatars to enter into alternative worlds. They both went through a portal into a "water world" and immediately transformed into fish. As they swam around they came across a "text editor" white board thing ... and edited the text on it.

Ok ... he just opened a paint panel and drew a fish, colored it, and then inflated the 2D fish as he dropped it into the world. Now both of them were able to manipulate and move the new fish around. He entered another portal and showed a interactive spreadsheet, with the inherent ability to graph the values contained in the chart. He also demonstrated using windows as filters to show a filtered view of anything behind it. He was able to move it around showing the wire-frame models beneath the textures mapped onto objects.

All of this is written in Smalltalk, and uses Squeak ... completely cross-platform to Windows, Mac, and Linux. He indicated that they will have a Python, Ruby, and other language support soon.

Expanding on his filter demo, he showed how he can open a new window and use it as a portal to create new objects in the virtual world through the new window. So the window become a palette through which you are able to create even more content. Of course, as a development environment, he is also able to add code that will add behaviors to the objects. I'm downloading it!

T. Colin Campbell @ AC2005

Just prior to lunch I'm in a session on diet and nutrition ... good timing. What I really like about this conference is the multi-disciplinary sessions ... the accelerating future of everything!

This session is titled T. Colin Campbell, Cornell University. Changing the World one Bite at a Time: The China Study and he is immediately jumping into the "common sense" knowledge. I'm sure that he is about to throw out some curves. He feels that good nutrition is being forgotten ... we just don't think abou tit, or the implications, on a daily basis. Like every time that we eat. Oh ... and he said that supplements are NOT nutrition in his view.

One powerful statement was that he believes that nutrition can bring the responsibility of health back to the individual! In our age of exploding health costs, this makes complete sense. We know that good nutrition can prevent and cure disease, controls disease producing genes, and reduces toxicities and facilitates metabolism. He expressed his frustration where in specialized groups - sports as an example - the value of nutrition is so well known ... but not communicated to the average person.

He reviewed his research into high-protein diets ... 20%+ ... and the high-incident of cancer that they found. Up to 10% ... no effect ... but above that they saw an increased rate of cancer in animals. In addition, they have gathered a lot of data showing the effects of animal proteins vs. plant proteins ... and the impacts on a long list or diseases. At the end of his presentation he pointed to Biosignia as a web site to check out. Ok ... time for lunch! :-)

Rebuilding our Bypassing our Institutions? @ AC2005

This panel discussion really demonstrated the forward thinking schools ... from around the globe. There are many new types of programs that are being introduced into traditional education.

Right now, the speaker from Tamkang University in Taiwan, Dr. Shun-Jie Ji, is describing their requirements in Future Studies and STEEP - Society, Technology, Economics, Environment, Politics. It's very cool to see the multi-disciplinary aspects of what they are teaching ... from sciences to health and medicine ... all forward looking and exploring the future. He is committed to creating stronger leaders who have the ability to accomplish more in the future world.

The next speaker, Sr. Denise Lawrence, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, talked about The Role of Meditation in Intelligent Learning ... yet another new twist in education. Their experience is that meditation alters the quality and process of thought. These thought processes become influenced by inner stillness, intuitive clarity, creative insight, and innate moral wisdom. Intelligent learning is then enhanced and able to emerge from this experience.

The final speaker (I missed the first one!) was Robin Raskin, Digital Mom, Author, Raising Digital Kids, and her comments are around not forgetting many of the core values of life. As technology continues to accelerate, we seem to be moving away from "responsible computing". To her, it appears that children are learning from adults that things are more permissible in the virtual world that are not "ok" in the real world. She gave examples of where it is no longer about children being exposed to "naked people", but instead people who - in one case - encouraged a teen age girl to commit suicide by providing not only the chat room encouragement, but the detailed instructions on how to do it! She feels that in the current overly scheduled, overly competitive world ... children actually see cyberspace as the last place to escape their "helicoptor parents" and hectic lives.

Most of the "guides to parenting" have fallen far behind in communicating about cyberspace. Children have started to lose the distinction of what a "friend" is ... they claim a friend, but often don't really know who that "friend" is in the real world. Robin feels that as corporate dollars are now flowing into Friendster, MySpace, and other social networking sites they are becoming the same as on-line bars. The Pew Institute just released a study that showed that only 38% of people - old or young - can distinguish paid vs. unpaid content!

Robin really had to rush to fit her presentation into the time allotted, however she had some very good points and statistics ... the impacts on children, and then blurring of lines in cyberspace ... have got to be causing long-term effects in society that we have yet to see.

Daniel Amen, MD @ AC2005

Daniel started off with a very interesting story about what they have learned by brain scans. He talked about a patient where they did a brain scan - exploring some severe martial issues - and found what appeared to be a brain with bad "toxicity". He indicated this was equivilent to heavy drug abuse or alcohol abuse. The man, and his wife, indicated there was no way he did either of these. What he found after numerous conversations is that

He has imaged numerous criminals including murderers, and to him there are obvious patterns. He is amazed at the ignorance demonstrated when brain imaging in not used to diagnose mental health.

All of his clinics work is based on 9 very simple principals:
  • The brain is involved in everything you do.
  • When your brain works right, you work right. When your brain doesn't work right, you have trouble.
  • Brain is the most complex organ - 100b neurons, trillion supporting cells
  • Brain is very soft, housed in a hard skull - brain injuries matter!
  • One size does not fit everyone - most problems are not single or simple disorders
  • Brain imaging can be very helpful - how do you know unless you look?
  • The brain can change - right interventions help, wrong interventions hurt!
  • Myth of the perfect brain - we all need a little help ...
  • Brain is not completely developed until age 25 - myelinization occurs to optimize operation

SPECT - single photon emission computed tomography - is how they do their brain imaging. What he has found is that once people get an image of their brain they begin to explore other ways to continue to improve their brain. Many of these methods are alternative medicine and supplements. He showed a series of amazing images of healthy brains, stroke victims, alzheimers, and various head injuries.

He indicated the core value is the ability to specifically target treatments, explain behavior, and predict future issues. It also removes the stigma of "mental illness" ... as it is now a physical medical condition that can be treated through known science.
Psychiatrists are the only medical specialists who rarely look at the organ they treat. The odds are that if a patient is having serious problems with feelings (eg, depression), thoughts (eg, schizophrenia), or behavior (eg, violence), the psychiatrist will never order a brain scan. He or she will prescribe medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, or a host of other treatments that will change brain function—but will not know which areas of the patient's brain work well, which areas work too hard, and which do not work hard enough. In my opinion, the lack of brain imaging has kept psychiatry behind medicine's other specialties, reducing our effectiveness with patients and hindering our efforts to reduce stigma and improve compliance.
He indicated that a brain scan costs ~$1000, with a full check up costing ~$3200. He said there are other things that are also coming into this same space ... one example is Journey to Wild Devine ... another set are outlined on his web site - Seven Ways to Optimize your Brain.

Dileep George @ AC2005

Dileep is now starting his talk on Understanding the Neocortex to Accelerate our Understanding of Intelligence. He is one of the founders of Numenta with Jeff Hawkins. He immediately started to explore the traditional thoughts behind AI. Ignoring biology was common place, even with neural network research. In the 1990's things began to change.

Now there is a groundswell of reasearch into biologically accurate systems. Hierarchical Temporal Memory is one of these research areas. This is a focus on the neo-cortex. He explained that:
if I opened the top of your skull, I would see your neo-cortex. If I pulled it out, it would really be a crumpled sheet, about 1mm thick, and you could spread it on the table. It would look like a big thin tortilla. All of your memories from childhood on would be stored in that tortilla.
Ok ... so I have a tortilla in my head! :-)

Supporting the talk from yesterday, there is a main stream belief that the entire sheet of the neo-cortex is based on the same replicated base pattern. A basic neural module. So what does it do?
  • the neocortex is a memory system (hierarchical, stores sequences)
  • through exposure, it creates a model of the world (discovers causes of sensory data and how they behave)
  • recognizes inputs and predicts the future (by analogy to past events)
  • behavior is a by product of prediction (behavior and prediction are the same)
Reptilian brains do not have a neocortex. It was mammalian brains that gained the neocortex. Initially only on the sensory side ... in humans it went even further and took control of the motor skills. In addition it is hierarchically organized. The hierarchy implements a series of feedback loops ... each level stores sequences of patterns. It passes a recognized pattern "up" by name, and also predicts the next element. This prediction is then passed "down" towards the senses to provide a reinforcing feedback loop.

Numenta is well along the way of creating artificial systems that provide the same sort of trainable memory systems ... amazing. His demonstration showed a series of trained images - very low resolution for now - and then he would draw on another screen and allow the software to predict/select which image he had drawn. He showed how the recognition was very resistent to noise, and able to easily distinguish between similar images. It was crude ... but very impressive. He expects to see commercial solutions within 3 to 4 years.

Tom Malone @ AC2005

Tom is from MIT and is speaking on The Future of Work ... and I believe that I am really going to like this talk. He is really interested in organizations ... and how Intelligence Amplification could come from organizations of intelligent humans. I thoroughly believe this, and that he is on the right track.

One of his first examples is the Wikipedia, and that the organization of so many people - however loose - was an amazing feat. His bottom line prediction is that technology is changing the whole world of organizations in a way similar to the revolution of democracy. He feels that the costs of communications are the core element, allowing the individual to have access to vast amounts of information which allows for individual choice ... over top down management.

His next example was eBay. Amazing stats:
$3.3 Billion revenue in 2004
~430,000 people make their living from selling on ebay
If these were employees, they would be one fo the 5 largest employers
What eBay has attained is to reinvent the right kind of infrastructure and community to invent a whole new kind of retailing. He feels this is the next logical stage of a pattern that has been repeated throughout history. These stages have been:
  • Bands - decentralized, unconnected
  • Kingdoms - centralized
  • Democracies - decentralized, connected
He feels that transitions between stages are based on the declining costs of communications. The more that decision making information can be decentralized to the edges, the more efficient and valuable the organization becomes.

He had some interesting examples of how democratic principals are slowly entering into leading companies:
  • W.L. Gore - managers become managers by finding people who want to work for them
  • Visa International - independent banks vote on policy questions
  • Mondragon Cooperative Corp - employees elect the board of directors and vote on key issues
Markets are another way that this revolution is taking place. Outsourcing is one type of market ... creating the e-lance economy. Funny that Elance is a web site that actually implements this idea. I have friends who have used Elance teams to do software development ... from Sri Lanka and India. Intel has apparently been exploring the use of futures markets within their manufacturing to manage manufacturing capacity.

MIT developed a Process Handbook with over 5000 processes and activities that can be used for planning purposes within organizations. They are looking to create an Open Source version.

He showed the classic self-organizing humans demonstration ... the interactive media solution by Cinematrix. It demonstrates - with the flight simulator example that he showed - that there is a real power in collective human organizations that have simultaneous access to the same data.

Mark Finnern @ AC2005

Mark works for SAP and runs their developer program ... he's been there a long time, and is a long time futurist. His Introduction to Intelligence Amplification started with a number of slides covering thoughts by John Taylor Gatto. Gatto posits that there is a Fourth Purpose behind institutional education. He feels that the current design of the system is flawed, and more interested in teaching consumerism than anything else. All of this proposes that there is a better way to educate, and maybe different things that we ought to be educating about.

John Smart @ AC2005

John wrapped up the evening (beginning his talk at 11:21pm!) on How to Be a Tech Futurist ...

1. Introduction
2. Universal Assumptions
3. Two Processes of Change: Evolution and Development
4. Introduction to Accelerating Change
5. Prediction: Expecting the Future
6. Management: Thriving with Change
7. Creation: Making the Future

His talk reviewed how "futurism" is slowly becoming a real science ... a real area of study. With the current states of Future Studies (2 US Graduate Programs), Science and Technology Studies (30+ US programs), and Technology Roadmapping (5 US programs + 1 PhD) there is a growing movement in the right direction.

There were a couple of very interesting references that I hadn't seen yet. One of them was the Shell report on energy consuption called Energy Needs, Choices, and Possibilities: Scenarios to 2050 ... a very interesting analysis showing the relationship between per capita income and energy consumption. When combined with the flattening of population on earth (estimated by the UN in their 2002 revision) is seems that many of the fears of past decades ar not going occur.

John is always amazing to hear ... too many facts and references ... I'll be reading for weeks!

Jamais Cascio @ AC2005

I have to admit that I am geting tired, and really just wanted to listen to this presentation and not think about blogging. The Participatory Panopticon was the theme ... and it was a great talk ... well presented ... on the future world of always on cameras. Jamais is a very good presenter ...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Joichi Ito @ AC2005

Joi was supposed to be presenting on the Future of Blogging, but immediately said that he wasn't going to only talk about blogging. :-)

He had some good stuff to say about a wide range of subjects ... Wikipedia, Firefox, File Sharing ... and more on Wikipedia. He brought up fansubs - which I hadn't heard of, but makes perfect sense. People take various video content, and then add their own subtitles in their own language. Joi also showed a very cool remix of The Matrix Reloaded done by someone who put together a bunch of anime clips to the same sound track.

I had not heard of ccMixter ... it's a Creative Commons music site. Of course he promoted the concepts of tags and technorati ... Plazes ... and how quickly tagging has taken off ... a new free-form way for organizing/categorizing information, and more importantly information flows.

Too much good stuff to blog ... what a great spew of information!

Jerry Paffendorf @ AC2005

The evening sessions tonight started off with some interesting "open mic" Q&A ... some of the highschool students from the audience spoke about their perspectives ... it was interesting to hear.

Jerry got up to start talking about Brave New Virtual Worlds ... and jumped right into some of the interesting things going on in Second Life. He talked about how there are now all sorts of real-world to virtual-world interactions. One example was a Cancer Society fund raiser where Second Life characters walked in Second Life to raise money in the real world. In addition, Jerry even holds regular Future Salon meetings within Second Life where other Second Life avatars come to participate and listen to virtual presenters.

He briefly talked about the Croquet Project ... something that will be in a talk tomorrow. Another virtual world project. I downloaded the Second Life client software and will sign up for a free account ... I want to see what this is about. Hmmmm ... my first virtual identity in a 3D virtual world.

Esther Dyson @ AC2005

To start things off, when I walked into the session Esther was pointing people to Vizu ... very cool polling site. I'm now signed up and playing around with it. I pretty much missed a lot of the rest ... it was basically an open Q&A session ... there were a lot of good questions about ICANN, privacy, and the accountable Internet.

John Udell @ AC2005

I have always liked reading John Udell ... I think this might be the first time to see him present. His talk is on Annotating the Planet and started with a very cool mash-up demo using Google Maps. He reviewed the various Google maps mash-ups, and then went into some details on his various bike rides that he is mapping with the Gmaps Pedometer.

He touched on the areas of privacy and geotagging of all sorts of information. Referring to David Brins book The Transparent Society he had some commentary on how to potentially protect ourselves from the abuse of this information, and how to control who can get at this information.

He pointed to David Rumsey's web site, and quoted from his talk at a recent conference. David has an amazing collection of maps ... and is doing some very cool synthesizing of old and new maps.

Robert Hecht-Nielsen @ AC2005 (via DVD)

The next breakout was supposed to be a video conference with Robert Hecht-Nielsen, but something didn't work out ... so they chose to play a DVD of his presentation. Still interesting. The best part was the term "Confabulation Theory"! Yeah ... confabulation is a word that is in the dictionary.

His presentation explained how four key concepts form the foundation of cognition.

He started by proposing that cortical modules exist in the brain, and each of these is responsible for describing one attribute of Objects in the Mental Universe. These cortical modules are made up of groupings of neurons in the form of symbols that we learn at an early age. Each symbol is made up of ~60 neurons. Symbols could be names, colors, or any other attribute of an object. As numerous cortical modules are receiving sensory input, confabulation occurs ... triggering behavior.

Again, he emphasized that it is the quantity of knowledge that allows for confabulation to occur. Billions of knowledge links. One third of our life or more is spent learning the foundations. Language is the essential core of cognition. As we grow up we develop a rich set of symbols, and interconnections between symbols - between cortical modules - by hearing words combined with other sensory experiences.

There is more information about his theories in this article about his new theory of cognition.

Shrinking the Planet @ AC2005

After lunch at Accelerating Change 2005 we progressed into a series of breakout sessions. The first of of my choices was tough, but I went to a session titled Shrinking the Planet given by:
Peter Barrett, Microsoft IPTV
Scott Rafer, Feedster
Peter started off commenting on the growth of bandwidth to the home, and also the improvements in codec technologies. Both of these are combining to create an environment for on-demand IP delivered video content. This environment is quickly becoming the foundation for supporting the long tail concepts for video. He showed some demos of IPTV, and talked about the metadata that will be exposed in the TV guide - like how many people are watching a particular show, or even specific people you know like your family and friends. He said that the project is based on the DVR concepts, and that one of the initial partners is SBC with their Project Lightspeed.

Scott began his talk with some thoughts that are similar to mine ... that AI might just come from millions of interconnected humans. He referenced Dodgeball, and expanded on this theme with various potential mash-ups of various datasources. His slide titled Humans Will Be My AI gave a number of examples where large amounts of data - aggregated by humans - become the valuable source of metaperspectives. It was almost funny how many people were uncomfortable during the Q&A with his perspective of AI not necessarily being something that is created on a computer from some lab. Maybe one day ... but sooner then that I believe that humans are quickly becoming the "sensors and actuators" at the edges of a growing AI ...

Prospects for AI @ AC2005

The first panel discussion here at Accelerating Change 2005 was on the Prospects of AI. The panel includes an impressive line-up of people:
Neil Jacobstein, Chair, Innovative Applications of AI 2005; CEO, Teknowledge
Patrick Lincoln, Director, Computer Science Lab, SRI International
Peter Norvig, Director of Search Quality, Google; Author, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (the world's leading texbook in AI)
Bruno Olshausen, Director, Redwood Ctr for Theoretical Neuroscience
The introduction by Neil gave an overview of the many Task Areas being explored in the development of Artificial Intelligence. The key aspects of development are in Knowledge Engineering, Systems Engineering, and Business & Cultural. In his bullets about Ontologies and the Semantic Web, he referenced examples of early work - Cyc (OpenCyc), SUMO, and OWL.

The second speaker, Patrick, talked to the value of AI - Intelligence Amplification - and why this is necessary. The increasing gap between the complexities of technology, and human capabilities is causing more and more failures. AI can augment our ability to design complex systems, debug complex systems, and even operate complex systems. He talked about AI providing powerful abstracations - at the right levels - for both designers and operators. His examples included the progress and predictions in the uses of UAVs.

Third was Peter, from Google, who started with a slide titled AI in the Middle. His comments were about AI existing between authors and readers. His first point was about Machine Learning ... and joked about the fact that we don't know how to do it. His comments on AI in the Middle included how authors can write trillions of words, systems can detect certain patterns, and intelligent readers can then actually sort through this and find information. He went on to give examples of where apparent intelligence can emerge from larger amounts of data . .. giving examples of the accuracy of Arabic translation based on larger and larger data sets of example translation.

Bruno was the final panel speaker, and his area of research - Theoretical Neuroscience - is looking to the brain to gain insights into AI. The view of his team is to understand intelligence by understanding the brain. Not only the human brain ... but also other animal brains. One example is Jumping Spiders. He reviewed the knowledge that they have gained, and some interesting points that they are exploring. One area they have learned about involves vision, and where for each neural connection of retinal data (vision) coming in from the outside world, there are 10 times as many feedback connections coming from the cortex of the brain. So there is more information coming from the model in our own brain of what we are seeing, then the actual information being sensed! The model that we have in our mind contributes more feedback that what we are actually seeing! He explained that this is only one rich feedback loop that they are working to better understand.

It seems that all of the speakers look at advanced AI arising out of the shear number of patterns and complexities of their foundation work. I have to agree with them ... what we perceive as AI just might end up being an emergent property of the systems that we are creating ... not the explicit result of the planning and construction of the system.

Ray Kurzweil @ AC2005

I always enjoy listening to Ray Kurzweil speak on his vision of the future. He is spectacular thinker who notices and tracks many of the subtle trends in sciences that are the precursors to future events.

It is interesting to hear Ray start off by talking about the possible "bad" scenarios that could emerge in the future. He ventured into the conversation about how it will take new advanced techologies to protect us from current advanced technologies. This led to a good thread fof conversation on foresight and prediction ... how to analyze trends to see if the timing was right for the delivery of a new technology.

He always has a lot of supporting measures for his predictions ... and he immediately jumped into these. He used a new graphic that reviewed his 6 Epochs of Evolution that map to a set of substrate transitions that we are in the midst of. What is impressive about his research is that he is open to include different sources of detailed information and add it to his analysis ... and still demonstrate that his theories are on track. He is very good at showing that Moore's Law applies to far more than just computing power ... but to almost anything around us.

He talked about some of the great new genetic and biological research where we are becoming more and more capable of controlling our genes. He commented on some interesting work where gene interference research is allowing us to more easily turn on and turn off individual genes by attaching to the RNA within a cell. Some of the first outcomes will be drugs that will stop cells from hanging on to extra calories ... something that is not as important (obviously!) in a world where food is more plentiful.

Miniaturization is another exponential trend that Ray explored ... talking about Respirocytes - nanomechanical replacements for red blood cells - and Microbivores II - nanomechanical replacements for white blood cells. Both of these are being simulated, and many of the underlying technologies are in research today.

He jumped to some examples of economic growth by a wide variety of measurements ... again demonstrating Moore's Law all around us.

He wrapped up with a couple of great slides ... his thoughts of the future:

2010: Computers Disappear
  • Images written directly to our retinas
  • Ubiquitous high bandwidth connection to the Internet at all times
  • Electronics so tiny it's embedded in the environment, our clothing, our eyeglasses
  • Full immersion visual-auditory virtual reality
  • Augmented real reality
  • Interaction with virtual personalities as a primary interface
  • Effective language technologies
2029: An intimate merger
  • $1,000 of computation = 1,000 times the human brain
  • Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
  • Computers pass the Turing test
  • Nonbiological intelligence combines
    • the subtlety and pattern recognition strength of human intelligence, with
    • the speed, memory, and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
  • Nonbiological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas biological intelligence is effectively fixed
Imagine if only half of these things occur ... or if even more occurs! The accelerating future!

Vernor Vinge @ AC2005

John Smart founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation kicked things off by talking about the future, and future studies. This entire conference is presenting a multidisciplinary view of the future, and the effects of acceleration caused by the technological revolution. John primed the pump with some interesting comments, and a quick review of the speakers.

He then introduced the first speaker ... someone who I have wanted to hear speak for quite some time ... Vernor Vinge. Vernor is given credit for first using the term the "technological singularity". He immediately jumped into his presentation ... the slides are here: Vernor Vinge @ AC2005

It was fun to hear his line of thinking about the Singularity, and various types of growth curves. His slides contain a good set of quotes and thoughts about possibility. What is so great is to hear a speaker like this talking about the future, and some of the "inevitable" future events ... the development of creativity and intellect that surpasses present-day humans, this *is* the Singularity ... and the future of being human will evolve into whole new dimensions. He talks about direct neural hook ups of computers as inevitable in a way that makes you realize this is not a question of if ... but when.

He spent some time talking about the soft takeoff vs. hard takeoff scenarios. As he discussed soft takeoffs he highly recommended Accelerando as a great book exploring "soft takeoffs" as one possible scenario. Amazing stuff. He is a big thinker.

AC2005 ... SAP Reception

Last night was the AC2005 Tech Night reception up at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, CA. It was a great gathering with an amazing set of demonstrations. A lot of fun. Some of the things that I really enjoyed were:
  • Digital Identity - I got to meet Kaliya Hamlin - Identity Woman - in person. She was at an Identity Commons booth, and I also spent time talking with Ajay Madhok - founder and CEO of AmSoft Systems - and saw his demonstration of using iNames with cell phones ... some cool stuff.
  • New Space Technologies - I met Michael Mealing of Masten Space Systems. They are working on re-useable low-cost launch vehicles for taking smaller payloads (one cubic meter) into space. They are looking to do a first launch in 2007 ... so not too far away. It was fun to see that this type of thinking - and work towards making it a reality! - is becoming so commonplace today.
  • OpenCroquet - there was a great demo of the OpenCroquet system ... something that I am going to go and check out more.
  • IMSmarter - these guys have a very cool couple of products with their IMSmarter and pbwiki products ... both are consumer extensions of existing technologies with cool spins. The IMSmarter application is unique is that they are leveraging the power of Internet "proxies" to insert themselves in the stream of communications to add enhanced services.
  • TroyWorks - Troy Gardner was there showing off some of his TroyWorks visual interfaces that were very cool. I have some ideas that I am discussing with him ... I really like what he is doing.
  • Tactical Iraqi - this was an amazing example of how learning tools are evolving. Tactical Iraqi is a combination of traditional learning and gaming to rapidly teach Arabic to people.

The conference is starting ... I'm looking forward to being blown away ...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Amazing! OpenDarwin bug progress

Wow ... I just recevied an e-mail from the bugzilla system for OpenDarwin ... one of the OpenDarwin bugs that I reported has been assigned! This particular bug is related to a real-time clock issue when running OpenDarwin within Virtual PC.

I'm actually happy to hear this since I have stopped experimenting with OpenDarwin for a bit while some things like this get sorted out. If they get this one fixed, it will make many things work much better. On my installation right now, every second of computer time is somehow being stretched to be ~45 seconds of real time ... so things run REAL slow on my OpenDarwin installation.

I'm looking forward to seeing what is done ... I'd love to see this resolved!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Accelerating Change 2005

I'll be going to my friends conference - Accelerating Change 2005 - again this year. John Smart has again put together a great line-up of speakers and it looks like it's going to be drinking from a fire hose ... I'll be working to blog the event as best as possible. The Acceleration Studies Foundation is John's contribution to the world, and to exploring the rapidly evolving world that we live in.

If you read through the Conference Schedule you can get a good idea of the caliber of speakers. If you want to listen to last years conference for examples, go visit ITConversations and browse through the Accelerating Change 2004 Archives.

I missed last years conference, and have to admit that some of these ITConversations from last year just blow me away ... I can't wait for next week.

Google Maps, cellular phones, and the adventure continues

After reading Nat Friedmans post below, I had to start experimenting with Google Maps. This is too fun. I've had several calls with friends now, when their were driving someplace. I quickly ask them where they are, and start to zoom on Google maps ... tracking their travels as they are driving. Too much.

As Nat describes his conversation, I have now had numerous like it. I called my friend Joe while on his vacation driving up the coast of Oregon. Once he told me he was at a drive through coffee shop in Florence, OR I narrowed him down to this area. As they drove north they told me they were crossing 35th street right here!

I talked with him about the golf course coming up on the left ... it was funny to hear his comments about the scenery and the various buildings etc. that I could ask him about. Funny ... I can almost see this as the next step for Google. I joked with Phil Windley and our CTO Roundtable group last week ... it's almost like my friend Joe was getting live access to personal Google Maps ... and I was getting a virtual tour at the same time.

I'm thinking about my first Google Maps hack ... I've got some ideas and can't wait to play with it.

Living in the future. #

Later in the drive, we called Joe on the speakerphone and he gave us an aerial tour of the region using Google's satellite maps. It went like this:

Joe: There's a golf course on your right.
Us: Cool.
Joe: Huh, what's that strange building coming up on your left?
Us: It's a Marriott.
Joe: Oh. Cool.

[nat friedman]