Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bots challenge Second Life's 3 million residents

Second Life est arrivée. The big news is not about the immersive world's meteoric growth, now topping 3 million residents after having only 100,000 residents a year ago. Neither is Second Life's USD $1 million a day economy making a lot of news.

Interestingly, what is making news is the in-world tension between avatars and bots. With their quicker reflexes, land buying bots have been beating avatars to the punch in purchasing scarce real estate as it becomes available. The land bots are alt instances, additional avatars controlled by the same person in order to be able to access the First Land privilege extended to newbies. Philip Linden recently stated that people have on average 1.25 avatars, suggesting that there are about 500,000 in-world alts.

The real challenge is that the groundswell of new residents has overwhelmed Linden Lab's ability to provide new land resources, thereby triggering a huge digital scarcity. The bots appear to be an example of human ingenuity in attempting to obtain a scarce resource. The bots are not illegal however disgruntled residents have been lobbying Linden Lab to oppose bots and Linden Lab has agreed to look into the possibility of including anti-spam captcha technology in the land-buying process.

The Second Life land buying bot friction is a microcosm of how humans are likely to respond to AGI, particularly if resource scarcity is at all an issue. The strong need of the human to speak out on emotion-driven issues such as fairness, ethics, sentimentality and perceived mistreatment should not be underestimated.

Off to build my bots...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stocks 2.0: metrics, blogs and reviews

The Web 2.0 movement should be providing a whole new level of accessible validated aggregated information regarding publicly traded companies.

1) Standardized non-financial metrics
There should be standardized reporting (as for financial statements) and a template and widget code for socially responsible investment screening data in the usual areas: Business Practices and Governance, Environment, Human Rights, Diversity, Labor, Community, Animal Testing and Tobacco, Alcohol, Weapons and Gambling.

Currently, this research is developed and implemented in proprietary ways by Citizens Funds, Calvert, the Social Venture Technology Group and others who could work in standards bodies and open source ways.

2) Ecosystem information
Corporate employee blogs should be on Yahoo Finance, Google Finance, etc. Customer, vendor and supplier reviews and D&B, Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce data should be aggregated. More usable data regarding insider trades, litigation and negative PR would also be helpful. Companies can make themselves more attractive by providing this information as well as access to some permissioned-level of internal prediction markets and other innovative investment-worthy information.

3) Publicly available supervisor reviews
As the world is Yelp-ified with ubiquitous reviews, businesses can be competitive in complying with the expectation for reviews. Public CEO, executive and general management reviews may become commonplace and expected. Academic review sites have surmounted the attendant legal issues and become de rigueur in providing professor reviews with sites like RateMyProfessors and CourseReviews; why not for corporate bosses too.

4) NLP and other AI tech tools
Mutual funds and hedge funds are paying up for a new set of AI tools using NLP, natural language processing, to rapidly assess early signs of potential stock movement from rumblings in the blogosphere and news articles provided by companies such as CollectiveIntellect and Novamente. At some point all information posted to the Internet including podcasts and videos will need to be searched and aggregated. Making some versions of these bubble-up NLP-based summarization tools publicly-available could improve their value and acceptance.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why stop at two genders?

All humans start as the same raw brain in the first few weeks in the womb and express gender characteristics (chromosomal, gonadal, endocrine, morphological, genital and brain gender identity) based on a known blueprint of hormone baths over the next weeks and years.

This suggests that other kinds of humans could possibly be created, including other genders or specializations of genders, by administering other hormones, other doses of hormones or stimulating other brain areas. As testosterone shrinks the communications center and expands the fear and aggression center in the male brain, so could some other hormone influence other areas of the brain, stimulating olfactory centers, for example, to improve the perceptual survival capacities of space colony dwellers.

Many forms of hormone management are already in use and it is likely that the area will become much more understood, manipulable, acceptable and normal including such techniques as continuous menstrual suppression in females, testosterone suppression in males and in-body auto-regulators for a variety of medical purposes. Designer hormones would follow in lockstep with designer genes.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

del.icio.us for people

Why does del.icio.us for people not exist yet? This would be a means of tagging people with words; annotating their interest areas, likes and dislikes, how you know them, where you met them and probably many other aspects of meta data.

People-tagging would ideally have full portability across the Internet including social networking applications (myspace, LinkedIn, plaxo, etc.), personal IM, email and blogs and corporate/other group applications. Like regular webtags, peopletags could be self-assigned and/or discovered and shared with tiered permissioning.

Instant Affinity Tag Communication - Next Gen RSS
Imagine being able to instantly transmit news, blogposts, videos, events, etc. to a variety of affinity groups without having to remember which friends and colleagues are interested in which topics, Markets 2.0, videoblogging, sustainable energy, etc.

Even more robust would be a next generation of RSS, auto-alerting any identity with a "Singularity" tag, for example, with immediate notice of any new content tagged with Singularity posted to the Internet. Instant Affinity Tag Communication would not only provide richer data streams but also allow anonymity and reduce the requirement of personal relationships to obtain information.

Is it ethical to tag people?
Why not? A tag cloud accompanying people would be a better implementation of currently self-specified interest areas. Like many technologies, some form of people-tagging seems inevitable and mostly productive. The legal frontier would grow to address the extension of libel and slander as hate-tagging, inaccurate tagging and other problematic tagging occurred. Early people-tagging implementations could allow only self-tagging.

A people tagging system could be imbued with trust and value through tag attribute granularity such as by having a parameter for self-tagged vs. tagged by close-circle or wide-world others, disputed/ambiguous/conflicting tags and the ability to filter based on tag attributes.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Early Signals of Acceleration as 2007 Begins

Historically, technology typically solved discrete problems in open territory such as how to get database systems to talk to accounting systems or how to simulate the Earth’s climate in a computer model.

Now there is a deeper shift occurring which promotes change in the form of unsought improvements to the wide-ranging structure and institutions of society, to all of life. The thinking that has been creatively applying technology to problems is starting to question all aspects of how we experience life and redefine long-standing traditional social, economic and political models and problems at all levels including physicality/stuff (stuff-ness), information and concept. There is a tremendous opportunity for participation in this process. The toppling of societal models is underway in three key areas…

The most fundamental changes to status quo are currently visible in the economics sphere.

1. Yochai Benkler, a Yale Law professor extensively studied at Harvard’s Berkman School, points out that for 150 years, information and culture has been produced at the capital-intensive industrial scale and nearly all society is currently organized around this. Now, however, there are radical changes re-jiggering the creation of information goods and culture to increasingly occur in distributed open source models of participation by individuals. The subtext is the impending demise of traditional institutional models.

2. Markets 2.0 is driving capital allocation decisions to the individual in unprecedented ways deflecting power from existing capital markets with institutionally-disintermediated P2P affinity-directed investment, philanthropic, purchasing and human productive capital.

3. We are becoming a multi-currency society with reputation and ideas supplementing, replacing and ultimately surpassing monetary currency as the medium in which value is reflected.

Politics has not changed much yet. The time is ripe for many ideas such as these two and hopefully the 2008 US Presidential elections will be the catalyst:

1. Google Earth-like zoom perspectives of aggregated searchable political information integrating 1) real-time congressional voting records, 2) parties to whom budget allocations/public contracts are awarded, 3) lobbyist/PAC activities and 4) OpenSecrets, NewsMeat, etc. campaign contributions.

2. A daily barometer on MySpace, AARP, SeniorWorld, SecondLife and other social network giant homepages or newspaper homepages measuring and broadcasting real-time political sentiment.

Blogging, MySpace, YouTube, polyamory/multiamory attitudes, social networks and reputation building have compounded to create a more open, freedom-oriented, feedback-giving, opinion-forming sharing and discussing deliberating society. This has ultimately resulted in greater agency-taking by individuals in all areas of life, as political agents, as economic agents, as social agents and in every other area of virtual and physical reality.

Applications for human agency will continue to proliferate allowing the further empowerment, liberation and democratization of the human spirit, triggering higher degrees of actualization, happiness, contribution, participation and productivity.