Monday, December 19, 2005
More and more autonomous
I know that this is older news, however I still love reading articles about this race. This is truly amazing and is going to alter a lot of things. The fact that a computerized car can drive itself 131.6 miles and avoid getting stuck. Oh yeah ... and this is only 2005. So what are we going to be hearing about in 2010?
With the current rate of technological advances, five years is a huge amount of time for amazing developments to occur.
Driverless robots reach milestone in DARPA race. Stanford University's Racing Team has accomplished a historic feat of robotics, finishing first in the DARPA Grand Challenge, a 131.6-mile driverless car race that no artificially intelligent machine has ever conquered before.
Stanford's "Stanley,... [KurzweilAI.net Accelerating Intelligence News]
The word 'Identity'
I liked reading Phil's post about the word 'Identity'. This is one of the core issues surrounding the subject ... the definitions and understanding of the words. Without a common language and lexicon it becomes very difficult to nail down specifics on anything!
Years ago while looking into Identity I came across an article that discussed the origins of the word ... and it was a real breakthrough for me. From Dictionary.com, Identity is:
[French identité, from Old French identite, from Late Latin identits, from Latin idem, the same (influenced by Late Latin essentits, being,, and identidem, repeatedly), from id, it. See i- in Indo-European Roots.]"Being the same as" ... so the two core thoughts in this are that it is something that is derived from observing, and it is relative or comparative. There is an observer who assigns you identity by comparing you - or some aspect of you - to something else that is known. I believe this is the cornerstone of identity.
On the Word 'Identity'.
On the way back from a meeting in Salt Lake this afternoon, I was pondering the word 'identity' and the way it is used in the physical world and the way we use it in the world of IT. Something I heard on NPR set off this navel gazing--I can't remember what. Coincidentally, when I got to my office, I found this post from Tim Greyson on the living language of identity. And so, a post...
If I ask my wife, kids, or neighbors "what is identity?" they answer in various ways that I think reduce, at their most basic level, to this: "identity the sum total of who I am...my uniqueness." It includes not only attributes like height, eye color, and so on, but also their personality, hopes, and dreams--everything that makes them them. One way of sussing this out is to ask: do identity twins have different identities? We would say yes, even when we can't tell them apart.
...[Phil Windley's Technometria]
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Next generation electronic companies
My father worked for Westinghouse Electric Corporation for over 30 years. While growing up I was introduced to the broad range of products created and produced by Westinghouse ... from appliances, to power generation, to nuclear power plants, to military radar. To me is was amazing the breadth of products and markets that Westinghouse participated in ... from consumer products to advanced military weapons.
This article reminded me of this same scenario with a slight twist. The folks at iRobot are not only the producers of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, but also some very advanced military robots. If you haven't yet listened to the talk by Helen Greiner - co-founder and chairman of iRobot - she gave a great presentation at Accelerating Change 2004. It's very cool to see a company like this involved in such a wide range of applied technologies.
iRobot unveils sniper detector. The robot maker equips its PackBot combat device with gear to help soldiers find enemy marksmen. [CNET News.com]
Remote control ... using your brain!
There are many ways in which the interface between humans and computers has evolved in recent years, however I think that the biggest jumps are about to occur. This article is an example of just how far things are progressing. We are now able to isolate specific thoughts with electrodes placed strategically around the scalp.
My thoughts are not about how to detect thoughts of walking ... but instead how the detection of thoughts can be converted to new forms of communications. What if I could think about sending a message to you, and the computer would generate an e-mail or an SMS message to you? I actually think that research like this is taking us closer and closer to 'artificial telepathy' ... technology that will allow us to 'think' to each other.
Computer users move themselves with the mind. Computer scientists have created a brain-computer interface that can read your thoughts. It allows you to stroll down a virtual street. All you have to do is think about walking.
The technology detects brain waves by using electrodes placed at st... [KurzweilAI.net Accelerating Intelligence News]
The Identity of Mr. Mouse
In most of the conversations about "digital identity" we want to stick to us humans. How we make our lives better, easier, more secure, more private. There are a couple of flaws that I continue to see in the process and thinking that, IMHO, are only going to grow and continue to impart new pressures on our thoughts.
- Most of the planning is being done by "old people" who have a lot invested in legacy "identity" systems.
As part of the more "mature" component of the computer industry, I can say that the conversations that I hear about identity are often oriented towards solutions for people who have not had their identity gathered and managed for them from birth. As I wrote in my earlier post about Tracking Identity ... Cradle to Grave, there is a whole new generation of children on this planet who will have their identity accumulated - and available - in whole new ways. I believe that the digital identity management solutions ought to consider a focus on younger generations, rather that how to deal with legacy Internet 1.0 humans.
My analogy in this is thinking about digital music collections. For many people my age or older, the thought of digitizing their music collection is a monumental task ... having to find ways to encode audio for record albums! But for the average teen today, there is no problem ... all of their music is already digital as MP3s, or maybe they have some CDs ... which are easily ripped. With the next generation of humans, few will know anything but digital music, aquired via the Internet.
If we focus all of our time looking for ways to solve the "legacy human" problems, I'm not sure that we'll do justice for the 2.0 and 3.0 humans coming after us.
So what is the other issue?
- We keep thinking about humans like us ... not the humans, or non-humans, of the future.
For those of you who have not read Accelerando I would suggest that you do. Much of the content of this book is one possible extrapolation forward of the current day research that we are doing. There is already a considerable amount of thought around mind uploading, and even the personal identity of uploads. I started to really think about the issues of "identity of uploads", and even "rights of uploads" ... since these are going to be the issues facing our society in the coming years. (What is considered the 'murder' of an upload?) It's not about if ... but when.
In the CNN article about the mice, they claim that 0.1 percent of the brain is based on human cells. When this number increases, what will emerge? If not in mice (since the brain cavity might not be able to contain enough cumulative neurons to cause emergent behaviors) then in what strange hybrid entity might we see human-like behaviors emerge? When they do, will we be able to integrate these new entities into society? If not in physical meat-space, but in the Internet, new forms of consious life emerge ... will the various digital identity systems being designed today take into account how to verify their identity, and track their attributes? Are we even thinking about these coming events?
I have another post that I want to write eventually ... about the fact that "Uploads don't have fingerprints" ... not in the same sense as we do!
Monday, December 12, 2005
Microsoft Research and Mesh Networking
I have been following the work that Microsoft is doing in their Windows Peer To Peer Networking. This is actually some very impressive technology that allows for a distributed set of users to create peer-to-peer groups for exchanging data and information. I'm working on some applications (actually plug-ins for GoBinder) that are going to exploit this technology. Microsoft has put together a Peer To Peer SDK allowing you to perform name-to-IP name resolution (PNRP - a serverless DNS technology), along with graphing and grouping APIs for the transfer of data between the peers. It's all very impressive stuff ... and is in all Windows XP SP2 machines ... and will be in all Vista machines. The bottom line ... this is going to drastically alter how ad-hoc groups of users on Windows machines will be able to locate each other, communicate, and collaborate.
Today, I found yet another amazing technology out of Microsoft Research. For years I have been tracking the "wireless mesh networking" space. This is where each node in a wireless network is a repeater/relay for any other node that is within range. With true mesh technologies I can communicate with other users, even if they are beyond the reach of my wireless signal, if there are one or more nodes between us that are part of the "mesh" network. Mesh networks are the next big thing ... even the cellular carriers are talking about adding emergency mesh capabilities into cell phones.
What I found today is that Microsoft Research has code available today that will allow you to experiment with some pretty advanced mesh networking using your Windows XP machine! The Microsoft Research Networking Research Group has released their Mesh Networking software, and even an Mesh Networking Academic Resource Toolkit. I've started to go through the documentation, and so far this is a very impressive solution. They have embraced and extended some of the standards that are currently being developed:
I am really impressed to see this work this far along. I have been waiting for years to see mesh networking hit the masses ... and this is now getting close. I'm now going to upgrade some of my wearable computers to Windows XP just to experiment with this!
We implement ad-hoc routing and link quality measurement in a module that we call the Mesh Connectivity Layer (MCL). Architecturally, MCL is a loadable Microsoft Windows driver. It implements a virtual network adapter, so that to the rest of the system the ad-hoc network appears as an additional (virtual) network link. MCL routes using a modified version of DSR (an IETF protocol) that we call Link Quality Source Routing (LQSR). We have modified DSR extensively to improve its behavior, most significantly to support link quality metrics.
The MCL driver implements an interposition layer between layer 2 (the link layer) and layer 3 (the network layer). To higher layer software, MCL appears to be just another Ethernet link, albeit a virtual link. To lower layer software, MCL appears to be just another protocol running over the physical link.
How portable are these lie detectors?
When I read something like this, I start to wonder just how portable a system like this can be made?
Brain imaging ready to detect terrorists, say neuroscientists. Brain-imaging techniques that reveal when a person is lying are now reliable enough to identify criminals, with 99% accuracy, claim University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers.
When someone lies, their brain inhibits them from telli... [KurzweilAI.net Accelerating Intelligence News]
Tracking Identity ... Cradle to Grave
It is only a matter of time before this is going on almost everywhere. It seems today that most of our government tracked actions are recorded ... but in many different and separate databases. This appears to be an effort for the Dutch citizens to see a unification of their identity information for a variety of sociological benefits. Yes ... I know that many people are cringing at this. To me it only makes sense that it's going ot occur ... it's inevitable.
Dutch Treat: Personal Database. Starting in 2007, every baby born in the Netherlands will receive a Citizens Service Number and will have an electronic dossier opened in a central database. This will allow Dutch authorities to track each citizen from cradle to grave. [Wired News]
More advances with RNA
It was recently at Accelerating Change 2005 that I heard Ray Kurzweil talk about more advances in RNA Interference. This is a powerful process where we can now alter the expression of various genes using RNA. This article demonstrates yet another powerful use of RNA in our continuing exploration of genetics. Just imagine where we are going to be in the next five to ten years!
Purdue scientists treat cancer with RNA nanotechnology. PhysOrg.com Sep 14 2005 7:02PM GMT [Moreover Technologies - moreover...]
Friday, December 02, 2005
Phil Windley's CTO Breakfast
This morning was the November/December CTO Breakfast that Phil Windley put together. The breakfast started with a question about hiring good talent. One of the employees from Canyon Bridge said they have been looking to hire some good engineers, and have been finding that few can answer some very simple questions. The example that they gave was about reversing the order of a linked list.
There was a lot of talk about how to alter the hiring process, and also what types of questions people ask: What do you do outside of work? What Open Source projects do you work on? There was also a lot of talk about how to gather names. Examples were leverage your existing employees to get the names of "known good" co-workers. The problem with this approach is that you can quickly run out of references.
The conversation went on for a long time before it finally went over to the CP80 issue. CP80 is the "Clean Port 80" initiative to create laws which forbid certain types of content to be delivered over port 80 ... the standard port used by web browsers. It again becomes an interesting way to attempt to legislate morality. In the end, it will not be technically possible, but could give lawyers a way to go after the producers of "unacceptable" content. Yeah ... "unacceptable" to who? ([tags: cp80 clean filter porn])
The conversation at one point moved to downloading content from the Internet, and the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM). Several sites were mentioned where you could get free content - Pandora (which is a very cool streaming site - part of the Music Genome Project), and one of my favorites Epitonic. ([tags: free music learning])
There was a brief exploration of the whole area of Wikis and the inability of the "average" user to use "yet another markup language". I have to admit that it truly aggrevates me that the various Wiki platforms have subtle differences ... and most do not provide WYSIWYG editors. and we spent some time discussing the fact that there is a not a really good - Open Source - AJAX/WYSIWYG editor. I mentioned the fact that my parents can use Microsoft Word, but that having to learn a whole symbology wasn't going to happen. It reminded me of a great Podcast by Robert Lefkowitz @ OSCON 2005 ... I'll have to blog about that one! ([tags: wiki wysiwyg editors language])
Phil Burnes through out comments about Flock ... a very cool Mozilla-based project, I brought up a very cool article that a friend sent me from Make Magazine ... it was about Mologogo ... which is a very cool mash-up of Cellular phones with GPS and Google Maps giving you a very cheap "real-time" geopositioning/geolocation system. We wrapped up on one of my favorite subjects ... wearable computers. We didn't spend a lot of time on it ... I'll have to bring some of my toys to one of the next breakfasts! ([tags: flock make mologogo gps google googlemaps geolocation wearables])
On the way out, Phil brought up a good point. His gatherings bring together an incredible group of people with diverse interests and experience. It is the level of experience of some of the people that really brings a great spin to the whole conversation. We ended up going almost 2.5 hours ... and it was a great conversation the whole time ... and we could have gone longer! I'll look forward to January!
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Every now and then you buy a product that really just works. I recently bought a Bluetooth headset for my cell phone - a Jabra BT250v - and I have to admit that I am truly happy with this product. I've always used a headset, but the wired type. When I upgraded cell phones and bought a Nokia 6820 one of the features that I wanted was Bluetooth for a wireless headset. But I stuck with wired headsets for a year or two.
After destoying the wired headset for the second time by jerking the headset out of my ear or catching the wire on various things, and having to untangle the wire one too many times, I broke down and bought the Jabra. It is now something that I would not go without. The sound quality it great, it has a 'vibrate' feature so that I have now turned off the ring on my phone, and the buttons on the earpiece allow me to answer a call, and change the volume.
I have had two problems with it over the last month that I have had the device. The first I was warned about ... if I am outside and there is any wind, the people I am talking to immediately complain about the wind noise. I have learned to mute the phone, or warn people that I am talking with. The second was that one time the headset locked up and would no longer communicate with my phone. The on-line support indicated that I would have to 'reset' the Jabra, and that meant re-inserting it into the charging base ... which was at home. That did piss me off.
One other thing that I have learned is that every now and then it will 'disconnect' from my cell phone, for example if I set down the phone and walk away with the Jabra on my ear, or hooked in the neck of my shirt. Its easy to 'reconnect' by simply clicking the button on the Jabra. Likewise, if I switch my phone to speakerphone, and then back to 'normal' the Jabra will be disconnected. One quick click on the Jabra button and it reconnects. I have to say it is one of the best investments I have made related to my cell phone. A very nice design, and very easy to use.