October 27th, 2008
The Emerging Technology workshop at The Singularity Summit was a blast to host. We had a standing room only crowd of 150+, and I had the opportunity to present to and meet tons of interesting people. Thanks to everyone who presented and attended for an awesome day for SciVestor!
I presented the following preso at the morning keynote. Props to ethos 3 for their excellent graphical enhancements. Enjoy!
October 25th, 2008
I’m sitting back stage today at The Singularity Summit, enjoying the presentations and doing my best to stay out of the way. My chief responsibility (self assigned) is to tweet and twine the event has it happens. I’ve not used these two tools in conjunction before, but I am finding that they have an amazing synergy for recording both the fleeting zeitgeist (al a Twitter) and the enduring data (Twine).
Both are social tools. Twitter enables a group to socially instant-message and share their thoughts and perceptions of the moment. In the case of an assembled group of twitterers (tweeps? tweeters?) attending a conference, the medium becomes a method for creating a “back-channel” of conversation that floats through the aether parallel to the one-way message of the speaker.
Last spring at South by Southwest, the Twitter back-chanel flexed it’s muscle during the keynote conversation between Mark Zuckerberg and Sarah Lacy. (See Zuckerberg Keynote Descends Into Chaos as Audience Takes Over)
Tweets at The Singularity Summit have been less inflamatory (for the most part). We’ve adopted a hashtag #SS08 which allows people to easily find Summit comments. You can see the most recent tweets here. We used the same hashtag yesterday at the Emerging Tech workshop, and several of the panel moderators monitored the twitter feed during their panel to incorporate feedback.
The second tool that we are using at the Summit is Twine. (Twine is a financial sponsor of the event). Twine is a bookmarking tool + discussion forum augmented with semantic intelligence. As presenters discuss topics on stage, I can find a representation online and “Add To Twine”. (Twine requires a free subscription, you can see the Summit twine here.) Once I submit content to Twine, the service pulls keywords, summary data, and relevant context from the posting and creates a relationship model that links postings to other relevant content. Twine, like Twitter, is a collaborative tool. Anyone who subscribes to my Singularity Summit twine can add their own content which will semantically get mixed into all other contributions.
What I am finding most fascinating today (aside from the speakers) is the interplay between these two tools. A speaker’s comments will trigger a posting to Twine which in turn causes someone else to post an item to Twitter. Conversely, Some feedback on Twitter will trigger a post on Twine. It’s possible that we can see a recursive feedback loop between these tools from both the speakers and the audience that will last far beyond the speaker’s 15 minutes of fame on the stage. It would be a great benefit to Twine to integrate a Twitter feed so that semantic relationships within Twine could reference tweets and vice versa. I’m optimistic that these two tools will work together to create a very powerful offering for managing the short term and longer term wisdom of the crowd.
October 13th, 2008
If there is one thing we have come to expect for society these days, its volatility. The ups and downs of the financial markets mirror the gyrations of corporate strategy that in turn are reflected in the uncertainty of our country, careers, even ourselves.
We’d all like to have a “rock”, a center of calm in the storm that rages around us. But, at least for me, I find myself having a harder and harder time just relaxing and tuning it all out.
It wasn’t always this way. Prior to 1865, the fastest way to get a message across the Atlantic Ocean was by ship. Finding out “what happened to the European markets” was nearly a month long endeavor.
Decision-making was a local sport. Your personal volatility was largely limited to the actions that you and your community could take. A hundred years ago, we simply didn’t have the insight of what was happening beyond our local frame of reference.
This, in turn meant that society was filled with lots of local optima. Across each family / community / business / industry, we created an optimal experience based on what we could control. It was incredibly inefficient from a big picture perspective, but it was also amazingly flexible and redundant. A bank failure in one small town wasn’t likely to affect one across the state. They weren’t connected.
So how did we evolve to our hyper-connected, hyper-volatile society of today?
Society has used the power of accelerating technology to drive an endless drumbeat of linkage-driven efficiency.
Today we have a spaghetti mess of interconnected architectures. Our personal lives are intertwined with our jobs and our companies and the markets and other cultures etc etc. We’ve reached the point where it is too much for our human brains to keep up with it, much less optimize it.
And this leads to massive scale volatility. Everything is designed to be globally optimal. The markets are super efficient and so are the supply chains and so too our individual spending habits. But unfortunately, when something goes wrong in the vast interconnectedness, it can almost bring society to a screeching halt.
So what is the answer?
Architecture and strategic planning. I’m not kidding! We’ve known for years that you can’t make good decisions without understanding what you have and how it is all connected. And as technology within the enterprise has gotten more complex, we have evolved processes and capabilities to track and manage it. The only problem is that the rest of society likes to execute, not plan. To shoot first, ask questions later.
The fall of 2008 presents an amazing inflection point for society. We are going to have to re-architect the financial markets, and are on the track to bring massive change to the political markets as well. I hope the new leaders who stand up to guide these endeavors can take a page out of the Enterprise Architecture playbook: Begin with the end in mind. Create a reference model that explains how things are connected. Document enough of the current state to be able to make sane decisions. Establish standards that make sense and stick to them. And always ask “what if” before you pull the trigger.
May 3rd, 2008
Singularity University has been a big fan of “Living in the Simulation” fiction over the years. The original Matrix makes our Top 10 movies list - while the sequels disappointed. Of course, a substantial amount of discourse around this concept has made it’s way into the scientific community - notably in discussions of Existential Risk. Now, from our friends at Massey University in Auckland, comes a study of observable evidence to evaluate if, in fact, we are in The Matrix…
This paper explores the idea that the universe is a virtual reality created by information processing, and relates this strange idea to the findings of modern physics about the physical world. The virtual reality concept is familiar to us from online worlds, but our world as a virtual reality is usually a subject for science fiction rather than science. Yet logically the world could be an information simulation running on a multi-dimensional space-time screen. Indeed, if the essence of the universe is information, matter, charge, energy and movement could be aspects of information, and the many conservation laws could be a single law of information conservation.
If the universe were a virtual reality, its creation at the big bang would no longer be paradoxical, as every virtual system must be booted up. It is suggested that whether the world is an objective reality or a virtual reality is a matter for science to resolve. Modern information science can suggest how core physical properties like space, time, light, matter and movement could derive from information processing. Such an approach could reconcile relativity and quantum theories, with the former being how information processing creates space-time, and the latter how it creates energy and matter.
March 14th, 2007
Hillis proposes a startup and a set of services that will give rise to software agents that automate many functions now performed manually in front of a Web browser…