Thursday, December 14, 2006

Second Life exponentiates to 2 million residents

Today the virtual world Second Life welcomed its 2 millionth resident, exponentiating in growth from the 1 million resident mark on October 18, 2006 in less than two months and after barely having 100,000 residents at the beginning of 2006.

It is not Second Life’s 2 million residents, 10,000-20,000 of whom are in-world at any given time, nor its $650,000 per day economy ($237 million per year; $119 per capita, exceeding that of the Congo, Ethiopia and Burundi) that signals that the immersive world medium has arrived, but rather the existence of its opposition. The Register often highlights critical and problematic aspects of Second Life which it refers to as Sadville, for example citing "saddenfreude" and an analysis that time spend in Second Life contributes to global warming, as an avatar and a Brazilian consume roughly the same amount of electricity. (TV and media center electrical consumption was not mentioned.)

The brewing anti-SL movement has even moved in-world in hopes of better capturing SLer attention. The World Development Movement's anti-poverty campaign reminds passersby that there are still problems in what they refer to as "the Real World" such as a preventable child death every 3 seconds.

The ongoing presuppositions of the anti-SL movement are strange. They seem to think that SLers are 1) responsible for and 2) capable of contributing to world-problem solving in some unique way that TV watchers for example are not; and that 3) SLers are in fact not working on physical world problem solving in the physical world or via Second Life although there is much evidence to the contrary (such as the awareness raising Darfur sim where SLers can experience the refugee camp experience more closely).

When was the last time TV watchers or online Bix contest participants were blasphemed for watching TV or surfing the web instead of working on the world’s problems in their relaxation time?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Industry Roadmapping with Prediction Markets

Prediction markets are already known as liquid trading sites for real money and reputation and are starting to be deployed in corporate settings such as at Google, Microsoft, HP and Pfizer for crowd sourced knowledge of product launch dates, sales forecasts and other corporate events. Information markets are now even web 2.0-ified so that you can easily create your own prediction question with Inkling Markets or build a full market with open source software from Zocalo.

Prediction markets could be useful in many other areas such as industry roadmapping where disbursed information could be aggregated in meaningful ways. Industry roadmapping, which is setting future milestones and actions in an industry as agreed upon by the industry participants, is perhaps best known in the semiconductor industry. Other industries such as nanotech (via the Foresight Institute) and virtual worlds (via the Metaverse Roadmap) have been in the early stages of implementing roadmapping.

Prediction market roadmappers could create events and enter their view of the importance and timing of these events which are then rolled into a composite easily viewed on a time graph.

Roadmapping would become continuous instead of discrete by allowing participants (anonymous or not) to remain in real-time linkage with the project and constantly update any new information to be reflected immediately in the overall outlook.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bubble 2.0?

Life 2.0 has been re-inventing all aspects of experience including work, play, communication, commerce, politics, healthcare, aging, sexuality and spirituality so it is inevitable that it is eventually time for Bubble 2.0.

Is it Genius or Bubble? You be the judge

Some of the new startups not just using the new math but in fact no math include Bix, an online contest site which received $6.8M from VCs before being bought by Yahoo for an undisclosed amount in November 2006, Unboxing, UGC videos of geeks unpacking gadgets (can the site outlast PSP3 and Wii-envy?) and all the name-your-hobby-hereSTER cluster sites. Sort of reminds one of the deep history (five years ago) of eFlake, a breakfast cereal portal, ePants, an online pants ordering service and all the

Another tip-off: Venture Capital financing has had a slight up-trend in the last three years, pouring at least $5 billion of investment dollars into early stage companies each quarter. (Source: PWC MoneyTree, October 2006)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mainstream is not wowed by Second Life

Second Life is bursting at the seams - the immersive world is due to reach 2 million residents next week and has a burgeoning economy transacting over $650,000 worth of virtual goods and services EACH day.

More and more people are starting to learn about Second Life and there is one repeatedly recurring reaction: that people are affronted, even insulted that others would spend time in an immersive world.

This reaction has been expressed at least twice on NPR, recently when there was a commentator from Harvard's Berkman Law Center for Internet and Society and earlier from a Columbus OH caller on the October 24, 2006 Talk of the Nation segment (minutes 15:30-16:19 of the 30:20 minute program)
"I’ve never called in before ... I’m pretty disgusted by the whole thing ... there are so many real problems in the world ... this creative energy could go towards solving a lot of the basic problems and things that are going on in Africa ... I’m sure there’s some good coming out of it ... like new car designs ... but I’m very surprised at the amount of energy that people spend on things like this when there are people that can’t even have clean water …"
Ignoring the conflicting presuppositions and logic breaches, the key point is that something is different about spending time in Second Life versus with those other uber-productive activities that people might be doing in stead. There are several levels on which to examine this conflict.

1) What is objectionable about being in Second Life as compared with other leisure exploits like watching TV, watching YouTube, reading a novel, or playing video games?

2) What is objectionable about spending time in Second Life as compared with other creative exploits such as painting, carving wood in the garage, programming software or designing a video game?

3) What is objectionable about making a living in Second Life (which requires developing and using advanced technical skills) as compared with other remunerative efforts such as being a corporate drone, pornographer or gambler?

The response is so quick, visceral and negative that it is as if people are feeling personal rejection. Second Life is somehow different than other activities, even different than video games such as World of Warcraft (despite World of Warcraft racking up far more hours per user), perhaps because of the story of what Second Life offers, an alternative reality, and that people who spend time there are in some part rejecting the physical world and by extension its participants, non-SLers.

However, like the book, one of the original immersive alternative worlds, and in fact like most technologies (e.g.; radio vs. records) most people will probably come to realize that online immersive worlds offer more not less and supplement rather than replace the reality they experience.

Real-time 3D weather data visualization from NOAA

MLK "I Have a Dream" exhibit at the Second Life Library

How does the brain work at Uvvy Island

Climate crisis education at the International Spaceflight Museum

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Where is SingularitySTER?

With a friendSTER for every hobby like dogs, cats, cars and sports fans, where is what might be termed as 2.0, Singularityster? This long tail needs to meet.

Instead of community members authoring "first-person" journals in the name of their dogs as 35,000 do at Dogster, AGIs (Artificial General Intelligences) could write their own journals, or write journals as people...maybe they already are.

The new Turing Test would be identifying whether that is a human blogging as an AGI or an AGI blogging as a human...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Philanthropy 2.0 and Voluntourism

Leading philanthropy consultant Katherine Fulton's November 2006 talk at the LongNow was interesting and informative but unfortunately ignored the Accountability 2.0 and Effectiveness 2.0 that should be accompanying Philanthropy 2.0. It becomes increasingly clear that the roadblocks are more about political, structural, procedural, institutional and organizational issues than the receipt of funds. As Amy Chua points out in "World on Fire," there is no incentive for ruling elites to take any action to diminish their power. Philanthropy 2.0 should be about the effective usage of financial and other resources not simply their presence.

Peer-to-peer finance is the Markets 2.0 improvement - a more direct way of allocating philanthropic resources, using services such as third-world entrepreneur lender Kiva, international grassroots project donation site GlobalGiving and livestock donation service Heifer.

Even better than personally-directed philanthropic capital is moving into an active role by being a volunteer tourist, voluntouring for two or more weeks in a country of your choice with programs run by UniversalGiving, Social Venture Partners and other organizations. A nice antidote to regular travel, adventure travel, extreme travel and eco-travel.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Web 2.0 Meta Apps and Self-Aware Objects

With the proliferation of Web 2.0 companies, website based applications for category aggregation are needed.

The idea would be one site each for MetaCalendar, MetaPhoto, MetaBookmarking, MetaShopping (some of these exist but a more robust UPC code data aggregation and information packaging tool), MetaSocialNetworking (aggregating multiple in-site irresolvable profiles in addition to aggregating across all social networking sites), etc.

Advances and acceptance of federated identity are in process, however, user-administered affinity profiles could sidestep and even pave the way for federated identity and single logins.

Being useful is a parameter that should be pushed to the web object level, not imposed on the human user. Objects can become semi self-aware, at minimum finding and knowing of all other web instances of themselves (initially via UPCs) and the parameters there from such as price and availability, and later higher level parameters such as affinity compatibility.

All web content objects (products, services, blog posts, news items, personal profiles, etc.) could become self-aware in the sense of interfacing with affinity profiles and gathering and proffering basic and extended information and recommendations to human users.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Micro-content and MMOG Fantasy Sports Leagues

Conceptually, there are many possible way for technology to re-invent the future of professional sports event viewing and fantasy league sports participation.

1) User-driven event viewing, Tivo 2.0

The growing multitude of professional and amateur video and photo footage of professional athletic events from every angle and time frame could be used to allow user-directed event watching.

For example, in a football game, some viewers want to see the whole field view, some just the 10 yards of current action. Some viewers want to see certain replays from certain angles, some don't. Some viewers wish to see the content at varying levels, e.g.; instructional and coaching viewers want to see the maximum detail (time, angle and zoom) where as recreational viewers might prefer a five-minute highlights summary of the event, or of their favorite players.

Users could tag video micro-content segments and mix and mash their own fan highlights and instructional videos. Users could share their custom views and select those of others; e.g.; the defensive coach's view, the Joe Namath view, the Barry Bonds view (e.g.; how Barry Bonds would customize his view to watch a baseball game), etc.

Status: Data exists, needs applications, including (non-trivial) video search micro-content tagging, preferably via an automated tagging engine

2) Simulated Games using real micro-content mashups

Once all physical-world games are repetitively filmed (think massively multiple YouTube listings), micro-content tagged (e.g.; accessible at varying layers of detail, for example, all the footage of one specific player) and available in one or more web repositories, the micro-content pieces can be mixed, matched and re-run in simulation.

Fantasy league play could explode up to the next level of running game sims mashing footage of how the individual players actually played in concert with their other fantasy league team mates and opponents. Some sort of action reading and mapping would be necessary to make the simulated action make sense. Fantasy league games could be events of their own right and would have their own score outcomes.

Status: Need micro-content auto-tagging first, then a mix and match selection and simulation platform with an algorithm to mash physical-world video content of players from many physical-world "source" games into simulated fantasy league games.

3) Virtual World Sports MMOGs

Another way to mix physical-world content in simulation space would be by having lifelike avatars of the entire NFL, European Soccer League, Women's Volleyball Team, NBA, etc. available for play in metaverse worlds or video games.

Players could select to play one, several or a team of avatar athletes to compete against other players playing other avatars. This would be a tremendous licensing opportunity for athletic leagues, including not just the avatorial video resemblance but also possibly a recorded audio database of athletes' umms, ooofs, grrrs and other sound effects.

Status: Need athletic leagues to realize that multiverse world player representations could complement and in fact might ultimately supersede physical-world licensing opportunities.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Affinity Ratings - New gigg for Digg?

Digg's filtering value is eroding now that it has become mainstream. It is time for YAM (yet another mashup) Web 2.0 style - mashing digg and social networking to deliver the ability to see one's social network's diggs, and more broadly to personalize any variety of filters for digg. Maybe some companies will even present this at Web 2.0 Launch Pad this week. has the same "diluted value due to size" challenge, and is including an early social network tool with "my network," however my network is discrete. A better implementation would be filters overlaying the whole site's functionality, allowing users to filter on all, my networks, me, and any other affinity profiles.

Affinity Ratings and Mashups 2.5
Even more useful than mashing up social networks and digg and bookmarking would be adding user-specified Affinity Ratings to digging and tagging. Users could select canned affinity profiles (e.g.; green, sustainable, entrepreneur-posted/created) or create their own - the "Jane Geek Affinity Rating." The easiest implementation of Affinity Ratings would be aggregating tags.

Digg functionality could be expanded to allow personalized affinity ratings on news, and next and more importantly, on non-news items such as products and services.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

P2P Finance - Does it work?

$20 million in loans have been funded to date through P2P lending marketplace darling Prosper, not bad given that the site launched publicly less than nine months ago. But is it working? How are these loans performing?

In another victory for transparency (the first being that borrowers willingly consent to having their credit ratings posted publicly), Prosper also makes default statistics publicly available.

Below is a simple analysis comparing Experian default rates by credit tier to the percentage of Prosper loans that are 1+ months late and 3+ months late on a payment.

Although the news appears to be encouraging, since Prosper currently only has 3,372 loans active and billed (below), it is really too early to form definitive conclusions. From this early data, Prosper loans seem to outperform traditional loans in the C, D, E and HR credit tiers, but under-perform traditional loans in the higher credit tiers, AA, A and B. Outliers, potentially fraudulent activity and really just too little data and too short of a track record are influencing these numbers, however it will be interesting to see if the trend can be maintained.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Open-source sexuality. Compersion. Relationships 2.0

The role and function of sex and relationships has already been shifting considerably with modern life (birth control, economic empowerment of women, skyrocketing divorce rates, etc.) and could now be taking an order of magnitude shift as human life spans are increasing and technology and life accelerate.

Now that humans live 80-120 years and possibly forever, it only makes sense that relationships would evolve from the one currently acceptable model, "life-long" monogamy and the antiquated tool of political control, matrimony. What does it mean now anyway, until uploading or suspension do us part?

Physical intimacy, emotional intimacy and companionship can (and in reality do) come from many interpersonal and other sources, both physical world and digital and could be better fulfilled with greater realization of their distinctness. Polyamory, led by the tech-innovative Pacific Northwest, is an interesting alternative model, where the level of communication and personal emotional management required is exemplar. There appears to be an important self-evolution to move beyond jealousy and reap the relationship rewards of polyamory and compersion.

Higher levels of self-actualization may be possible by separating and expanding ideas of physical intimacy, emotional intimacy and companionship which have been traditionally bounded by scarcity, control and artificiality.

The future of sexuality further changes in all aspects of culture when traditional physical reproduction becomes obsolete. Sexuality could be more about authentic agency instead of bartering, obligation, power and status.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Need more widgets – Starbucks Mobile

The Internet is really going to explode when web widgets, badges, open APIs, mash-ups, etc. expand out of the Web 2.0 eco-structure bubble and into the mainstream web and onto the fledgling US mobile computing platform.

A beautiful marriage of smart-phone users and the sanctioned addiction to caffeine would be going to on the way to the coffee bar.


1) Tap one of the icons indicating a pre-saved drink combination, e.g.; short decaf soy white mocha no-whip (who wants to say that everyday anyway!) or enter a new beverage combination

2) Tap an icon for one of the pre-saved store locations or select a quick-load nearest store-finder

3) Tap to pay via pre-approved bank or credit card auto-debit.

4) Arrive to coffee bar and pick up drink.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Markets 2.0 - Social Finance. Affinity Markets.

The long tail, smart mobs and social networking are driving the evolution of economics to Markets 2.0. Social networks have been important venues for self-expression and interaction and now, with an increasingly linked online populace, are starting to add a new and important functionality, virtual aggregation for group power, both economic and political.

Two key concepts in Markets 2.0 are Social Finance and Affinity Markets. Social Finance is the virtual aggregation of dozens, hundreds or millions of people for the purpose of conducting an economic transaction. Social Finance is also known as crowd funding and crowd sourcing.

Affinity Markets are marketplaces where transactions can occur based on affinity attributes. Not just is the sweater red, woolen and made in China (legacy attributes) but under what conditions was it made, were renewable materials used, did female entrepreneurs make it (affinity attributes). Affinity Markets are also known as directed capital, cause-based capital and (in online aggregations) virtual affinity groups.

Markets 2.0 have the ability to completely disintermediate traditional financial institutions by providing instantaneous, cheaper, directed capital with more effective results.

What will it be like when people can get their mortgage and home equity loans online from peer finance, when anyone can have a local portfolio manager for commodities in India, when million-member virtual BuyGroups bid for insurance and healthcare services, when synthetic economies nominate and finance virtual candidates for physical world office, when Socially Responsible Debt means that states without measurable social progress cannot get their bond offerings financed?


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Land Grab on Free Local Voice

Who is not stampeding to AOL to take advantage of free personal local phone numbers with always-on voicemail as part of the firm's roll out of new free services? AOL tops already land-breaking voice services from Skype (free Internet-based call-in and call-out, free conferencing of up to five parties), Google Talk (free Internet-based call-in and call-out) and Yahoo Messenger ($0.02 per minute call out to non-Internet numbers).

Desirable area code phone numbers can be had for a matter of clicks. Phone numbers could proliferate as have email accounts and mobile devices. Bye-bye Ma Bell. Now we are just waiting for ubiquitous wireless broadband networks, oh, and the physical implantation of miniaturized communication devices.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Countdown to 1,000,000 Second Life Residents

Metaverse World leader Second Life barely had 100,000 residents at the beginning of 2006, and enjoyed strong growth in the first half of the year, reaching 300,000 residents at the end of June.

Then Second Life makers Linden Lab changed the registration policy such that no credit card information was required. The world's registered residents began to exponentiate, particularly helped by international residents swelling from 25% to 50% of total residents. Certainly residents do not correspond to unique users, as people may have one or more "alts," alternative avatars.

The Second Life website tracks that about one third of total residents have logged in within the last 60 days and that there are an average of 10,000 residents in-world during Second Life (US Pacific Coast) prime time hours. Private estimates suggest that about 10% of total residents are actually active in-world.

$7 million of transactions were run up by Second Life residents in July and there are a factor of magnitude more SKUs available in Second Life than at Wal-Mart (hello Long Tail).

On its current course, Second Life will reach the million resident mark well before the end of October and probably even before the end of the upcoming weekend. w00t!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Premature Aperturation and other Neologisms and FlickrSpeak

Web 2.0 and tech pop culture is exploding so fast that neologisms are struggling to keep up...

Web Trash (Tr4sh)
All the great unwashed, untagged, un-meta'd information out there; text, audio, video, etc. that is dead even to the user; orphaned personal and corporate intranet pages and other data that is invisible to higher levels of indexing, identification, organization and use.

Repli-trash - MMIMPS
Massively multiple instances of Media Products
The duplication of audio and video media files all over the net; a movie clip uploaded to ten video sites, an audio file uploaded to ten podcast sites, etc. Free storage has led to ineffective usage - some high percentage of all content must be duplicates.

Authenticity Charlatanism
Grabbing a URL, group name, tag, or other web content category without having the traditional world authenticity to do so, e.g.; the Prosper Harvard and Wharton MBA Lending Groups are brand leeching; they have nothing to do with real Harvard and Wharton MBAs.

Validation to watch UGC (user-generated content) videos by dint of employment at a UGC video site.

Web 2.0 Darling Flickr invites a whole nomenclature cloud of FlickrSpeak unto itself:

The first photo to arrive on Flickr from an event (especially a Web 2.0 event), usually seconds after the event starts; attendees snapping away in competition for the FirstFlickr.

Premature Aperturation or Pre-Flickr
Being overzealous in trying to get a FirstFlickr such that the event has not actually started yet.

Flickr ADD: Attention Distribution Dichotomy
Conflicts in distributing one's attention between being present to a physical event and getting it recorded and uploaded to Flickr.

Over-flickring or FlickrSaturation
The additional Flickr photos that only replicate information on previous photos of the same dog, event, place, etc. after the Great Asymptote of Usefulness has been reached.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Life after Second Life

Why be content with Second Life when you can join ...the Multiverse Network... and access and interact in hundreds of virtual worlds all via one portal? Multiverse Network sees itself as the browser of metaverse worlds as users gatewaying through their site will have a universal sign-in, unified billing and centralized marketplace commerce. Interworld communication and travel is planned, as well as social mechanisms for world discovery and collection with personalized "world playlists,” user rankings and contests.

The few hundred development teams in the Multiverse Network's closed beta are finding the virtual world platform to be a unique, fun and high-functionality way to create MMOG worlds. The platform, soon to be in public beta, is being used for traditional game development (Force of Arms) as well as non-gaming work and learning applications (Project Mars which includes Mars-like gravity) and is described in more depth here.

The Multiverse Network's push in releasing worlds to end-user consumers in 2008 will likely trigger a further explosion in synthetic world commerce. One implication is that vendors making avatars, objects, textures, animation scripts, etc. for use in on-line worlds would no longer have to be tied to just one world, as the Electric Sheep Company, SLBoutique and Aimee Weber are to Second Life. Network content developers would have a panoply of potential customers and leveragable products and services.

Interworld connection will allow massive cross-world collaboration networks based on affinities to evolve; what would it be like to be with 1000 avatars online in the same space? While virtual space allows for smaller avatar form factors, communications challenges will likely abound with multi-channel chat streams erupting with some predictable asymptote of crowd participants.

Identity (that temporary and anachronistic human construct) will be different in a multiverse network with larger identity and avatar portfolios to manage (this theme is already occurring in Second Life whose nearly 1 million "residents" correspond to far fewer biological equivalents). Identity experimentation will be fun in multiverse worlds too, such as by being able to be multiple avatars in multiple worlds simultaneously and by permissioning avatars for independent tasks and activities with low-level AI methods.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

AGI, IPTV and Video Search

Video sites (no names please - YouTube!)and video search are early stage red hot. Video Search 1.0, the current available methodology for searching for video content includes meta data, tags, audio transcripts and image search but nothing to aid in identifying and categorizing the context and meaning of videos.

AGI viewing video UGC (user-generated content) would have the same problem humans do: there is no value without meaning and context. Two people playing basketball on a trampoline are ... two people playing basketball on a trampoline. Video search further highlights the challenges found in getting to the next levels in text search, and more broadly in AI, moving from explicit information representation to the abstraction, recognition and representation of concepts. The road forward is not clear.

Meanwhile, other early stage opportunities exist. For IP video to be a true TV replacement and fully arrive as an entertainment medium, rights issues must be resolved so that video playlists can be subscribed to, downloaded and stored automatically (anyone remember RSS?) for big screen viewing. Advertisers also need to shift to a content-providing mindset to extend and invite user experience. If IPTV cannot be TIVO'd, the advertising model better not be traditional or annoying.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

How did geeks become so cool?

It is really very simple, first, in the wave of IPO booms and the Internet bubble, geeks became rich. That always gets people's attention.

Tech-driven modern life
Second the PC, Internet, broadband, gaming, media center, mobile device and self-expression consumer-created content revolutions brought completely tech-driven and tech-enabled lives. Just to be alive in today's increasingly interconnected society requires tech-savviness. In fact, there is a great opportunity to make technology relevant to older tiers of society who feel increasingly excluded. Today, the more you you know about your gadgets and technology, the more fun you can have! Everyone, not just nerds, has to do tech.

Technology provides hope to society
Third, the coolness of geeks has been horse-powered even more by trends at the ideological and psychological level. Technology is one of the few recent areas where there can be collective societal hope. The political, economic and social spirit of the US and by extension the increasingly westernized flat world has had the tenor of limitation, circumscription, control, and immaturity. Technology provides a bright spot of innovation, progression and hope. Much psychic leadership has shifted away from its more traditional source, political leaders, to technology innovators.

Also critical in a newly self-actualizing society, technology is providing a realm where people can take action and drive results to the extent that does not currently seem possible in political, religious and social realms.

Go Geeks!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

To Web 2.0 or not to Web 2.0

Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and others are making their APIs open and increasingly easy to use. Often with only a few lines of copied and modified code, a Google map swatch or search bar or Flickr photo cloud providing visual accompaniment or now Yahoo mail information can be added to any website. Google's code is primarily client-side so can run more easily, Yahoo's mainly runs server-side and requires ISPs to have Apache 2.0 and PHP 5 installed.

Those sneaky software companies! At a basic level, open APIs expand the outsourcing trend from user-generated content to user-generated applications too. This actually benefits both the software companies and users.

At the more important conceptual level, open APIs are extending the componentization of software, which has been progressing in fits of cohesion and rollbacks of proprietary standards. As Jaron Lanier and others have long pointed out, the software industry lacks an effective standardized component library and rebuilds the wheel each time. The same point is made in global productivity speak by former McKinsey consultant William Lewis in "the Power of Productivity;" industries that standardized components early became leaders, homebuilding is a notable example.

Users featuring more prominently in the development process as well as other current factors such as Web 2.0 applications being organized in chunkable components may provide a stronger more fungible foundation for software development from which we can all benefit.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How would you use passively multiplayer gaming?

Passively multiplayer gaming is using applications that track one's computer usage and transform the information into fun, productivity and interesting interactions with others. Passively multiplayer gaming is also called "myware" (as opposed to spyware) articulating the self-controlled element. Multiplayer gaming denotes the possibility of getting bonus points and leveling up to demonstrate progression like in the gaming world but in computer applications: World of Warcraft drum roll please, you have leveled up in Excel! These ratings could be shared with others (employers, online reputation networks) to communicate skill and experience.

Biggest benefit
The biggest benefit of passively multiplayer gaming is the ability to increase the interconnection and synergistic cooperation of human brains. Teillard de Chardin and others long ago voiced the idea of the increasing encephalization of the earth; the increasing interconnectedness of human minds extending and implementing knowledge and information. Technology is quickening the linked human hypermind, initially via cities, newspapers, BBS, etc., then with Internet-based email lists, forum discussions and search, then with podcasts and text and video blogs, now the latest step is electronic event calendars that can be shared with others, the mobile computing platform and passively multiplayer gaming, including permissioning friends into real-time personal location data via GPS. Minds no longer need to be individual but are becoming interconnected hivemind clusters.

Other benefits
First, passively multiplayer gaming contributes to the evolving trends in transparency and life documentation with lifecamming, lifeblogging, flickr photo streams, etc. Second, passively multiplayer gaming contributes to personal productivity. We know we spend too much time in WoW, the blogosphere, Internet news feeds, etc., but actually seeing the numbers tabulated and using applications that will spring up to overlay the data and make it useful for estimating project phase completions, etc. will be very useful.

Third, next level non-hackable smart monitoring could allow skill-acquisition and ratings that are used to communicate expertise. The gaming achievements currently listed on resumes could extend to many other areas, including job force training and life-long education activities. Some sort of smart monitoring is important for measuring effectiveness as time spent alone does not confer expertise.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Social finance has arrived with crowd funding

Peer-to-peer micro-finance is expanding from lending marketplaces like Prosper and Zopa to peer-to-peer affinity-driven financial support for a wide variety of arts, humanitarian and software development projects.

The phenomenon has many names: crowd funding, crowd sourcing, social finance (coined here?), and virtual affinity group capital. Crowd funding is the natural extension of memes like the long tail, smart mobs and social networking and is an obvious capability of an increasingly linked online populace. Social finance is Money Now! - instant market support for good ideas attached to validated reputations.

Several websites are accommodating crowd finance: bands via Sellaband (description), movies via A Swarm of Angels, and citizen vlogging via HaveMoneyWillVlog (using a Wordpress plugin) which importantly lists the deliverable(s) and has feedback loops for on-project progress. Austin TX-based Fundable is a clearing house site for social finance and sees many uses for its platform including project financing for individuals, non-profit organizations, relief efforts and software development projects as well as other social finance practicalities such as splitting the cost of purchases and club dues collection. Fundable's beta site is a bit under-built (needs better listing and search functionality) and their 7% fee is steep (Prosper takes 1% of funded loan amounts).

Social finance projects are most often open-source, and are sometimes executed in interaction with the funding sponsors. A minimum contribution of $10 is generally required and the total amount to be raised is a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. PayPal (perhaps finding itself much more extensible than initially envisioned) handles the mechanics of the crowd pledges and fund disbursement, sometimes including some degree of escrow functionality for the commitment of funds and return of pledges if the project does not fully fund.

The funding levels are still fairly low for social finance projects but as the model becomes more proven, hopefully the idea could be used for longer-term science research funding and looking out even further, the economy could shift to include freelancers with consistent regular affinity support as dependable sustenance.

It is exciting to see the power of virtual affinity groups in providing capital in both lending and grant financing models. The next obvious capability of virtual affinity groups will be in providing political support. The impact of social finance, text and video blogs and video clip websites like and YouTube will likely be significant in the 2008 presidential elections.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Vlogging democratizes and extends citizen media

The small media revolution started with blogs and podcasts and further continues with the currently exponentiating vlogs.

Programming is now fully democratized; people can create whatever programming they think is interesting, relevant, entertaining, creative, has a message, etc. and distribute it for free on the Internet (courtesy of broadband) to affinity audiences who find the posts by interest linkage not mass-marketing. In addition to superstore vlog aggregators Blip TV, YouTube, Dave TV, Current TV, etc., special interest content development and aggregation new media companies are already emerging such as Have Money Will Vlog. Foundation grant funding for digital media community projects is also available. As with blogging and podcasting, monetization models remain hazy; advertising models are still grappling with blogs, (Google take note) unobtrusive effective video-based advertising is still pre-infancy.

With vlogging, the viewer creates the programming; life-chronicling (life-blogging, my life in bits (overall description, microsoft), etc.), interesting, entertaining, relevant programming for friends, family, employers, special interest groups, documentaries and broad political, economic and social statements. Like the rise of political blogs, vlogs will likely have an important irreversible role in the 2008 US presidential elections. At first blush, vlogging, like blogging, might seem egotistical however it is really about creativity, expression, storytelling and agenda accomplishing.

With video capture as a standard feature of today's mobile devices, we can all be citizen journalists anywhere anytime, which means we must expect that others are doing so of us and makes us wonder what obligations and costs, as in Josh Wolf's case, this new power confers. Vlogging is just like blogging and podcasting only even easier to create and more accessible to both creators and viewers.

One result of the explosion in citizen media is that the world is increasingly balkanized into media zones by age tier:
Group 1: newspaper, standard TV, radio and written correspondence
Group 2: traditional Internet news sites (, Google news), Tivo-controlled TV and user-driven XMSR and Sirius satellite radio and email
Group 3: Blogging, vlogging, commenting, linking, aggregation readers, in-game and in-world chat, texting and mobile platform domination

Group 2 "decides" whether to blog or vlog, Group 3 just does. The medium is the message: popular media is finally popular. Vlogging is about the fun, challenge and responsibility of making media. Vlogging, blogging and podcasting are all open platforms. Everyone needs to explore for themselves how they want to experience and create on that platform. Your message is your content in that medium.

-Vlog pioneer Ryanne Hodson's comprehensive free tutorials:
-There are many convenient vlog readers (which are also blog readers), particularly FireAnt and open source Get Democracy, which can be used to search, subscribe and manage vlogs.
-There are a wide variety of vlogging techniques including: traditional video capture and editing, photo-casting - snapshots linked with or without audio using tools like FilmLoop, Slide and BubbleShare, screen-casting for machinima, and good ol' Flickr for quick visual images.

Friday, September 22, 2006

AGI survival instinct

In the future digital world of human software file uploads and AGI, the primary entity may elect to run a variety of other versions of itself for experimental, improvement, productivity or other purposes.

How will these non-primary entities view their survivability? David Brin's "Kiln People" has a convenient answer to an analogous situation; his "dupes" are not able to live more than 24 hours. Some argue, as does Lee Corbin, that any non-primary entity should and would be happy with any run-time, no matter how minimal and would happily accede to termination at any point if that were the wish of the primary entity.

It is quite possible that an instance would not want to terminate for at least two reasons:

1. Evolutionarily, survival is one of the most basic and primary instincts of a being and it would seem hard to divorce this from an entity even if it has multiple instances running. It would also be impractical to attempt to edit survival out of the additional run-time versions.

2. As with AGI relative to current humans, subsequent digital entity versions once running may be evolving exponentially faster than the original and could develop capabilities that the original instance could not understand and control. The usual arguments that humans use to become more comfortable with the potential superior intelligence of AGI - to run the AGI or other instances slower or in a more contained resource environment - are just as unlikely to work in this case.

If the subsequent instance is sufficiently different from the original, and the original is not likely to update itself to integrate these differences, the subsequent version might well view these differences as important, personal and unique improvements and wish to preserve itself, even to the logical extreme of attempting to destroy the source code of the original instance.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Anousheh - they should be paying her $20 M

Anousheh Ansari, the International Space Station's fourth civilian space explorer or space tourist, may just be using the visit as the next stepping stone in her continued contribution to the commercial space industry. She is pictured at right on the ISS, blogging and doing email, just as on Earth and here is the picture that will sell a thousand space flights.

Ansari sponsored the Ansari X Prize with Peter Diamandis which has turned into the multi-event annual X Prize Cup and her commercial space venture capital activities include twenty sub-orbital space craft on order from Russia. Ansari-sponsored companies may join Virgin Galactic in offering commercial space flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico which is scheduled to open for commercial space flights in 2008. The current status of the spaceport is that an FAA environmental study is in-process and due to be completed by the end of 2006 after which construction could begin.

At minimum, Ansari is helping space travel to become more routine in the minds of many and as a pioneer and entrepreneur; hopefully she is thinking about how to make space exploration cheaper, more accessible, quicker and more comfortable for the hundreds that will follow. More than the other civilian space explorers to date, Ansari is positioned to extend her experience into a broader opportunity.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

1 billion mobile devices to be sold in 2006

Already pressured about no longer being on the Moore's Law curve (the Pentium 5 being at 2 year doubling times) and distracted by Microsoft Vista's impending arrival, the computing industry is further stymied by the boom in mobile devices (1 billion units to be sold worldwide in 2006) vs. PCs (250 million units to be sold worldwide in 2006).

PCs or Computing (servers, desktops and laptops) have always driven industry design roadmaps. Now semiconductor and other vendors are struggling to assess whether and how to adapt their design processes for the increasingly divergent exigencies of computing, networking, gaming and mobile devices. A variety of chip and systems level designs are proliferating across the supply chain which could drive innovation and improvements but could also entail friction and complexity and in any case are too early for significant positive results to be reaped.

In the memory segment, NOR and NAND's mobile device focused growth is due to overtake that of general computing's mainstay DRAM. New memory solutions discussed at last week's San Jose CA MemCon are also in the offing such as solid state hard drives (expensive and less-proven technology) which would allow quicker machine booting and application loading and a variety of hybrid hard drive solutions including Intel's Robson interface (a closer extension of today's technology).

The computing industry is traditionally-minded, cloistered and responsive vs. visionary; a behemoth focused on managing complex integrated global supply chains with long product design and life cycles ($25 million average chip design costs) and not meta-level change.

The biggest risk is that despite rampant demand and wireless broadband proliferation, the computing industry continues to dismiss mobile devices and ignores the real potential power of the mobile computing platform.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Virtual Killing

Until human brain files can be uploaded, and/or AGI and avatars can make a convincing case that they are conscious, the extinguishing of virtual characters cannot be considered killing, murder or homicide but rather the destruction of personal property.

Even once there are uploaded human software files and other conscious electronic entities, destroying a run-time instance would still only constitute property damage. Not until all backup instances of source code were destroyed such that the entity could never run again could the physical world concepts of murder, homicide and suicide start to be introduced in the virtual world with any seriosity and legal consequences.

With real-time backups updating saved instances, destruction of run-time instances cannot be more than crimes of property destruction. Many interesting situations could arise such as a run-time instance discovering and reacting to a plot to expunge its source code, or an electronic entity experiencing accelerating evolution and wondering how much to update its original source code; would you want a copy of your four year old mind file?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Les Nouveaux CyberCelebs

The world is changing. It has always been the case in TechLand but never before has there been so much mobility and opportunity for impact and name-making.

New CyberCelebs emerge every day largely by dint of being there first, by being early users of a new medium or area or product and as things are moving so fast, finding themselves de facto experts whose opinions are sought. CyberCelebs are most often not formally educated in the underlying aspects of their substrates (e.g.; psychology, art, composition, game design, economics, politics, etc.) or sometimes even at all.

Some notable CyberCelebs include Julian Dibbell (gaming economies), Jerry Paffendorf (metaverse worlds) and Robert Scoble (blogging).

That the new experts are not those schooled in underlying principles, but early experiencers of the milieus suggests that:

1) there is tremendous opportunity for anyone to have impact in world-shaping and making a name for his/herself

2) formal education can but slip farther behind in preparing anyone for the world of accelerating technological change. Unfortunately something seems to be missing from both sides, traditional education is anachronistic and irrelevant, and TechLand misses by being homogeneous and narrowly focused.

The best way to be a participatory citizen of today is to splice a self-study program of traditional education with learning new areas though direct experience and blogs.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Personalized Virtual World Views

Metaverses (metaversi?) are proliferating, from Project Entropia to ActiveWorlds to Blaxxun's 15 communities to There to Sims Online to Second Life (whose residents have more than quintupled since the beginning of the year, especially since credit card identify (and age) verification is no longer required as of June 30).

However, these early metaverse worlds carry in too many incongruous metaphors from the physical world. One is not making use of VR to change the concept and physical layout of space. It should be possible for users to personalize by choosing a profile for the sims (properties/mini-sites) that will display in their virtual world views, at minimum with ad-blocking. The Berners-Lee Internet, in 2d or 3d, is about pull not push; users should have the right to populate their own attention flow streams.

With teleportation being the navigation method of choice, there is no requirement (or detriment to virtual real estate markets and traffic) that sims/locations be contiguous or in any static formation. People visit locations they prefer in virtual worlds anyway, personalized views is merely a facilitation tool that could also lead to greater creativity in developing and using the metaverse world medium.

In addition, personalized virtual world views could help with the zoning, local government, and enforcement growing pains that were expressed at last weekend's second annual Second Life Community Convention.

Imagine logging in to a virtual world and finding sims in your interest profile grouped all around you (possibly above and below as well), showing in different light tints or colors per parameters; a new and growing VR smorgasbord with each visit. View preferences could be changed at any time and could be set to "all" or "random" or even the meta metaverse channel.

As with cell phones, multiple environment profiles (with customized avatars) could be stored for easy access to professional collaboration, education, information gathering, hobby #1, hobby #2, sexchat, etc. Multiple full or partial avatars with simultaneous existence can hopefully be realized soon.

Thinking ahead to business and military applications, flexible user profiles would also allow different hierarchical (meta) tiers and permissioned views of virtual sites/information. There are many ways the property of spatial flexibility can be used to improve and extend the use and value of metaverse worlds.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Making money in video games - ethical?

Is it ethical to make money in online video games? That is by spending video game time earning gold pieces or other game valuables and currency through patient monster slaughtering and skill/trade acquisition (skinning slain beasts for pelts). The gold can later be converted to physical world currencies at game trading sites like MarkeeDragon or eBay or by trading with other players.

Anachronistic economic imperative persists
Despite general resource abundance and continually increasing efficiency of matter usage, there is a diminished but still present economic imperative in the physical world; it is necessary to earn or have some degree of money to provide for survival needs. Given the economic imperative, the rational being will find the most expedient means of meeting this requirement and would certainly consider video game income generation as an option. If one can make the same or more money in less time in a video game, why not do it! And many are, from MMORPG gamers to Second Life metaverse merchants.

Is video game playing a potential career?
Some might dismiss video gaming for income as a dull routine of repetitive tasks, hmm...which sounds exactly like...most physical world jobs. Gaming has many benefits including allowing one to set one's own hours, providing a clear means of status and progression up the hierarchy and the ability to choose the degree of partnership with others. Again, why not cover expense demands via gaming and pursue other projects and interests with the rest of the time saved by not having a regular job.

By parallel, stock market traders have been denounced as parasitical for not making real and tangible products but living derivatively from the efforts of others. In reality, investors provide liquidity and take risk, without which financial markets would not exist. Video game income earners are the same; they could also be accused of being parasitical but in reality are providing the liquidity which makes virtual markets work and in addition are facilitating the transition and advancement of humans and intelligence to the machine substrate.

A large class of humans is growing that is comfortable with a variety of physical world and virtual world activities for a wide variety of purposes ranging from social to creative to income generating. Video gaming skills and knowledge often translate back to physical world activities too, who doesn't list their WoW Lvl 60 Mage 200 person raid-leading skills on their resume?

There is the usual tired argument that what if everyone wanted to make money in video games, who would make the "real" physical world stuff? Well, not everyone has become financial traders, so presumably not everyone would seek to earn their only income in video games, also with the likely increases in robotics and molecular manufacturing revolutions in materials, the world of stuff will continue to occupy fewer and fewer people.

Future of Transactions: Virtual Affinity Groups
There are already many virtual markets, including financial, prediction, eBay, P2P lending, MMORPG and metaverse worlds to name a few, and the type and nature of virtual markets will continue to grow. The Internet is awash with social liquidity that will likely be directed into Virtual Affinity Groups that self-assemble for the purpose of economic, political, etc. transactions.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Five years to Chinese economic domination

Applying the CIA Factbook's 2005 growth rates to GDP numbers and extending for several years suggests that China's GDP will have surpassed that of the US by 2011 (in less than five years) when both countries will have GDPs of about $15 trillion. Of course it is expected that China's torrid 9.9% growth rate will slow, and China may be more prone to reporting errors but the trend to economic dominance role reversal is clear.

In 2005, the US had a GDP of $12.4 trillion and a growth rate of 3.5% and China had a GDP of $8.9 trillion and a growth rate of 9.9%. Developing world peer India starts with a lower base ($3.6 trillion in 2005) and has a healthy 7.6% growth rate, but is not forecast to catch up to the US and China in the next decade, if linear growth persists.

Interestingly, the arena for China's growth is not limited to the traditional, physical world of GDP; the more important Chinese economic dominance may be in digital worlds. Merely the opening act features China as already a huge participant in the digital economies of metaverse worlds like Second Life and Internet gaming by manning and sometimes creating and improving bots to mine gold and other MMORPG video game valuables.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Future of Writing: Blog extensibility

Software and web applications - wikis, blogs, photo-sharing, bookmarking, tagging and open content management platforms like drupal have revolutionized Internet communication. These new applications create an alive and interactive web as they allow commenting, profiles, links, rating and editing. This transformational wave is still accelerating, but it is clear that how we conceptualize and engage in communication and content creation in all contexts of our lives is being reshaped.

This alive and interactive web has two principal benefits: serving as a self-expression mechanism (see "The Real Killer App: Personal Expression") and socialization facilitator and, more importantly, leading to better content. Some comments are like cocktail conversation, language niceties, essentially another human analog to the communal grooming of apes. Some comments extend the conversation which creates more information. Tags, links, comments and trackbacks build an information-plex much greater than the views of one person around the original post and more information (less entropy) is always desirable as astrophysicists attest. Content is better and creates more information because it is alive and interactive.

Blog Books
Now there is a trend to take online content back to traditional print content. Lulu and Blurb are publishing platforms where blogs or any other content can be uploaded (free) and printed as a book (charges vary). Which points up the question, what is the role of books and other traditional print media in this new era of increasingly alive, interactive, connected content? Circulations for newspapers and magazines have plummeted; what is the future of books?

Essence of Blogposts
Blogging is quite a new form of expression. The essence of a blogpost is often drawing attention to one or many ideas, happenings or news items and then commenting on them or deriving additional analysis and ideas from them. Even personal narrative posts are likely to draw in outside ideas, technologies and influences. A blogpost can be much denser and less linear than a page of text from a book.

What is reading a Blog Book like?
Blogs as a distinct form of writing leads to the blog as a book being an interesting concept. Unsurprisingly, reading a book of blogposts is different than reading a regular book. Blogposts are dense, non-linear, discrete entries complete unto themselves. The reader must create the connection between posts in the absence of flow across pages the way a fictional story or non-fictional argument slowly builds and develops. The reader performs the higher cognition of connecting themes and meta-messages from the blogposts.

Blog extensibility tools
A useful tool, an extension of Lulu and Blurb, which I thought both were at first, would be to take the text in a blog and pull it into one cohesive whole. From the body of disparate blogposts over time, themes, progressions in thinking and multi-dimensionality arise which could be further developed via a tool organizing a blog (by tags, categories, keywords, etc.) into the basis for chapters which the author could develop into a more complex analysis and comprehensive work such as a traditional essay or book.

Making books more alive
In addition to tools for aggregating blogs into more comprehensive wholes like books, making books more like blogs would also be useful. After blogging, writing in MS Word, etc. is hopelessly old world - linear, static and non-interactive. Tools are also needed for re-creating the traditional essay or book format in the non-linear, interactive, connected style of less formal web writing. This could be achieved easily by adding functionality to blogging software.

Information is Alive!
Imagine a future where all information is alive, interactive and linked: books, essays, academic papers, blogs, vlogs, photos, videos, music, email, etc. As the world's information is increasingly digitized and available and searchable in a single or linked repository, there will be more tools for knitting different formats of content on the same topics together. BlogSearches and regular searches will probably not be disjoint for much longer and will start to incorporate more media types. It would be great to have a universal information file with user-set parameters that continuously updates and auto-searches, auto-organizes and auto-summarizes all available information (from academic papers, books, press articles, blogs, etc.) on selected topics and could be viewed online, downloaded to an electronic or print book or directly into the brain.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Latest evolutionary meme: MommieBlogger Angst

The concept and act of parenting has changed dramatically in the last generation, thus far mainly in America, with many parents now viewing their roles as entertainers, body guards and support staff. These parents have clearly not read Judith Rich Harris’ defining work The Nurture Assumption which notes that quality of peer group, not parental behavior, is the key determinant of success and happiness for children (and adults).

The interesting question is what impact, if any, this shift in parenting will have on the psychology and reproductive trends of the next generation (assuming the singularity doesn’t arrive first). Will millennial children of boomer Parents 2.0 have more or less biological children themselves? If fewer, it would be another victory for memes over genes as Richard Dawkins in the Selfish Gene, Susan Blackmore in the Meme Machine and Keith Stanovich in Robot’s Rebellion purport.

Culture and cultural memes are highly effective at evolving, morphing nearly immediately in minutes, days and years as compared with biological evolution which, currently unaided, takes at minimum about 10,000 years.

Culture has created another first world disease, MommieBlogger Angst, essentially (per the MommieBloggers) a rebellion against the rigors of child bearing and child rearing (such unforeseen surprises!), but which is really an encouraging response from women striking out about how highly under-actualized they are. MommieBlogger Angst received big dialogue amongst the parenting set at July’s 2006 BlogHer conference in San Jose, California. By the way, where are the DaddyBloggers?

Luckily, there is an easy solution at hand for MommieBlogger Angst for those willing to apply critical thinking to social hypnosis; forego the kiddies and be part of the growing childfree movement. Nothing would impel women’s equality faster than refusing to have children. However, ironically, MommieBlogger Angst is more than just a reflection of the isolation and criticism mothers feel, it is actually (social science PhD topic seekers take note) indicative of a much more important trend, that of women demanding to use their brains, and voice their thoughts at not being fulfilled in the mother-only roles they think they chose for themselves.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Will Artificial General Intelligence do art?

Webster defines art as "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects." The first part of the statement seems to hold for AGI, it is likely, almost by definition, that AGI will have consciousness (e.g.; self-awareness), skills and imagination.

In the extended clause, the term objects is also fine, as objects can exist in the physical world or in digital worlds, do not need to be continuously instantiated and do not need to be instantiated at all to be accorded value by AGI. Aesthetic is the most problematic aspect from AGI's view point as aesthetics could be driven rationally, as in by geometric proportions, or emotionally, as in by feelings. AGI will have rationality but maybe not emotion. Emotion is not likely a precondition for intelligence.

How do humans know something is beautiful? It is a subjective judgment, but so can it be subjective (individual, heterogeneous) for AGI. Humans may claim the process of evaluating beauty is subjective too, but it is likely that the process is routine; sensory information comes into the brain and properties (symmetry, color, melody, etc.) are identified and processed, some of which may elicit emotion. Emotion is possibly an after-the-fact signal for more expedient cortical interpretation but not required for perceiving beauty.

Progressing from this simple analysis that AGI could have the concepts of art and aesthetics, how relevant will this be to its priorities? "The conscious use of skill and creative imagination" will likely be the chief activity of AGI, but not for creating stuff, rather for creating ideas, hypotheses and experiments with aesthetics being defined as simplicity, accuracy and economy of solution. AGI art is scientific discovery.

Using machine intelligence for knowledge generation

What will artificial general intelligence (AGI) do with its infinite time and initially great computational resources? Like humans, AGI will be goal directed, though likely in a more focused way, so AGI would be likely to do the same things as humans but in different ways (e.g.; using parallel, distributed, etc. methods) and with different proportions; these activities are:

1) Control matter
2) Solve problems and fulfill needs
3) Create/discover new knowledge

The difference is that AGI will nearly exclusively spend its time in #3 vs. most humans which do the opposite.

Once securing survivability, AGI will need to spend a minimum of time controlling matter. AGI will also need to spend a minimum of time fulfilling needs as biological needs are eradicated and emotional needs are also likely expunged having been translated into goal motivators.

AGI will be concerned with what any next evolution of intelligence would focus on; solving outstanding problems, being creative, discovering anything not previously known or understood such as a grand unifying theory of physics, faster than light travel, the riddles of dark energy and dark matter and controlling the force of gravity.

Given the benefit of dramatically extending knowledge in these ways and the challenges and long road to AGI, more purpose-specific machine intelligences (narrow AIs) should be build to concentrate on singular problems.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Enterprise software-as-service kinks

Marc Benioff's proclamation at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit at Stanford today that the "Business Web is Here" seems a bit unfounded given a) that its not, b)'s legendary outages, c) the company's 50% drop in stock price so this year (vs. a 15% drop in the NASDAQ) and d) a similarly lackluster showing from software-as-service peers RightNow Technologies, NetSuite and others.

Meanwhile, Oracle's market value has quietly doubled in the last four years as the company has had to provide support for the whole market of enterprise software solutions. 94% of Oracle help desk calls involve integration with other applications. Oracle customers' number one business process challenge is other applications: conflicting instances of invoices, databases, etc. on multiple systems.

The challenge for both established (former darling SAP's recent downside earnings surprise, for example) and startup enterprise software companies remains unseating Oracle which is a formidable obstacle for many reasons including the still problematic software-as-service model. Open source and Web 2.0 solutions are distant alternatives given their current lack of scale, reliability, maturity and implementability for reaching serious CIO consideration. Unfortunately, enterprise software continues to be driven by CEO ego wars as opposed to an innovative look at customer needs.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The myriad flavors of spaceflight

The best Earth views can be had for $20 million (plus $15 million for a space walk) which is actually getting cheaper since Russia has not changed the price in the five years that they have been offering space tourist visits to the International Space Station. So far, there have been three paying space tourists and more are scheduled including X Prize donor Anousheh Ansari. The rigorous medical examination and training for orbital flight is detailed here.

If one can be content with suborbital flight and waiting a few years, there are more options, the cost is dramatically cheaper and the six month cosmonaut training is obviated. There are many potential providers of suborbital flight, including Space Adventures (2007-2008 timeframe), Incredible Adventures aboard the Rocketplane, and Virgin Galactic via Spaceship Company ships to be built by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites. The Virgin Galactic suborbital flights are $20,000 and are due to depart later this decade from a $200 million spaceport to be created in New Mexico.

Zero gravity flights are available right now from a variety of service providers including Space Adventures, Incredible Adventures and X Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis' Zero Gravity Corporation, who flies 15 parabola rides for $3750 out of Florida, San Diego and San Jose.

It's great that so many people, both astronauts and cosmonauts (400 to date) and private citizens are having an opportunity for space-related experiences. Hopefully this increasing activity will continue to raise interest, support and involvement in space, astronomy and science in general.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A copy by any other name

If I could make copies of myself, I would probably make lots. The goal would be to maximize my self-development, knowledge, skillsets, experiences and contributions. If I have the privilege and capability of making multiple self-copies, then so would others and therefore resource constraints are implied not to exist. It's not clear how many copies might be good, but probably not infinitely many, unless they could scatter throughout the universe. Would you get annoyed by having a lot of yourselves around? Would they be hard to work with, everyone responding the same way to group dynamics?

Would it be desirable for copies to have circumscribed capabilities and consciousness? Would it be moral to do so? Assuming the easier case that all copies have full capability, volition and consciousness, the idea is to be a borg mind. All copies share all the knowledge and all experiences, syncing on a daily (or more likely real-time) basis, somewhat like David Brin's "Kiln People" dups for example. There might be cases in which a copy no longer wants to participate in the borg mind, for example if it had some really different experiences and got pulled into a new memeplex and lifestyle (beneficial or detrimental). In other cases, the copies could take turns going to work and doing the other obligatory activities of life.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Aesthetics and science are distinct

Some scientists have been talking about the old fallacy of physicists that the most simple, most elegant solution must be the correct one. Simple, sometimes as in Occam's razor, is an objective assessment and may be appropriate, but elegant, which is a subjective assessment, is not.

Some aesthetic supporters include Mario Livio of Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute in his 2000 book, "The Accelerating Universe : Infinite Expansion, the Cosmological Constant, and the Beauty of the Cosmos" who synthesizes the views of a variety of pro-aesthetics scientists and more recently, well-known game-designer Will Wright at a June 2006 talk hosted by the San Francisco Long Now Foundation. Other long supporters of aesthetics continue to populate mathematics and physics.

Pandering to aesthetics is a surprising and disappointing departure for scientists from their more usual rational stance. Whether a solution is aesthetic or not is irrelevant to its main property of being able to solve a problem. In fact, aesthetic value is normally accorded to a scientific solution once the solution's accuracy is established, and is very much in the eye of the beholder. The Aeron chair, as Malcolm Gladwell reminds in his 2005 book "Blink," was ugly until it became an Internet entrepreneur status symbol.

Evaluating scientific solutions in terms of aesthetics is just another indication of how necessary new conceptual paradigms are for many areas of science where new ways to frame the problems could be an important step forward to discoveries, particularly in particle physics, cosmology and artificial intelligence.