Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 Top 10 Technology Trends

2015 could be an exciting year of Zero-to-One paradigm-busting innovation, honoring and distancing humanity from Excellent Sheep mode, bringing online more of our 7 billion people in a rich and connective collaboration to scale forward progress in a truly global society.

Top 10 Technology Trends: 
  1. Deep-Learning
  2. Wearables/IOT
  3. Digital Payments
  4. Video Gaming Hardware Mods
  5. Quantified Self-Connected Car Integration
  6. Consumer MedGadgets
  7. Smarthome, Smartcity
  8. Personal Robotics
  9. Cognitive Computing
  10. Blockchain Technology
Predictions for 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bergson, Free Will, and the Philosophy of Cognitive Enhancement

Bergson claims that free will exists. It occurs in moments when a living being experiences duration, which is tuning into the internal sense of an experience, and a freely-determined action flows from this state. His reasoning is that “if duration is heterogeneous [if we are tuned into the internal sense of experience], the relation of the psychic state to act is unique, and the act is rightly judged free.” An act is free if it flows from an internal qualitative experience. He suggests we understand this by considering an example in our lives of having made a serious decision; where even searching for such an example already starts to evoke the qualitative aspects, unique psychic states, and then the free-action undertaken as a result. The crux is that “We should see that, if our action was pronounced by us to be free, it is because the relation of this action to the state from which it issued could not be expressed by a law, this psychic state being unique of its kind and unable to ever to occur again.” Turning inward to our unique experience causes freely undertaken action to flow as a result, even if this action is a formulation of our mental state.

Philosophy of Cognitive Enhancement
The reason that Bergson is useful for the philosophy of cognitive enhancement is that he provides a reasonable ontological explanation for free will with prescriptive recommendations for its achievement. He draws our attention to the qualitative and characterizes it in usable detail instead of dismissing it as inaccessible due to being subjective (as did Kierkegaard). This could help in developing a philosophy of cognitive enhancement by articulating some of the goals and experience of what it might mean for humans to engage in such practices. It is not necessary to agree with Bergson's claim in favor of free will to implement some of the underlying ideas. What is important to us in cognitive enhancement (the targeted improvement of natural human cognitive abilities) is not just better memories, but accelerated subjectivation - the ability to extend our capacity by becoming ‘more’ of who we are and can be more quickly.

Cognitive Enhancement Tools
One first cognitive enhancement application of Bergson might be in having greater activation of free will; catalyzing more ‘living now’ moments where free will could be realized. Our everyday acts are quantitative and undoubled but cognitive enhancement tools might be able to help with greater activation of the qualitative experience of life. Another application could be exploring the emergence of freedom as a property of internal experience. Bergson does not discuss whether we are free to perceive our inner states in different ways, or just one default way. It would seem that qualitative multiplicity could extend to having discretion over experience. This could inspire an ethics of perception, and an ethics of reality, as topics of cognitive enhancement philosophy. Another application area could be quantitative-qualitative transitions; tracing how the quantitative becomes the qualitative, as this might be a way into a richer, ongoing, free will-activated experience of life. There could be many applications trying to help improve our psychic states, both in their quality and accessibility, and in our awareness and perception of them.

Reference: Bergson, Henri. (2001, 1889). Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience). London UK: Dover Publications. Bergson, Free Will, and Cognitive Enhancement

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Currency Multiplicity: Social Economic Networks

Cryptocoin multiplicity is just one kind of currency multiplicity in the modern world. More broadly, we are living in an increasingly multi-currency society with all kinds of monetary and non-monetary currencies. First, there is currency multiplicity in the sense of monetary currency in that there are many different fiat currencies (USD, CNY, EUR, GBP, etc.). Second, there are many other non-fiat, non-cryptocurrencies like loyalty points and airline miles; one estimate is that there are 4,000 such altcurrencies [1]. Now there is also a multiplicity of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin. Fourth, beyond monetary currencies, there is currency multiplicity in non-monetary currencies too like reputation, intention, and attention as discussed above.

Market principles have been employed to develop metrics for measuring non-monetary currencies such as influence, reach, awareness, authenticity, engagement, action-taking, impact, spread, connectedness, velocity, participation, shared values, and presence [2]. Now blockchain technology could make these non-monetary social currencies more trackable, transmissible, transactable, and monetizable. Social networks could become social economic networks. For example, reputation as one of the most recognizable non-monetary currencies has always been an important intangible asset, however was not readily monetizable other than indirectly as an attribute of labor capital.

However social network currencies can now become transactable with web-based cryptocurrency tip jars (like Reddcoin) and other micropayment mechanisms that were not previously feasible or transnationally-scalable with traditional fiat currency. Just as collaborative work projects like open-source software development can become more acknowledgeable and remunerable with github commits and line-item contribution-tracking, cryptocurrency tip jars can provide a measurable record and financial incentive for contribution-oriented online activities. One potential effect of this could be that if market principles were to become the norm for intangible resource allocation and exchange, all market agents might start to have a more intuitive and pervasive concept and demonstration of exchange and reciprocity. Thus social benefits like a more collaborative society could be a result of what might initially seem to be only a deployment of economic principles [3].

[1] Lietaerm B. nad Dunne, J. (2013). Rethinking money: how new currencies turn scarcity into prosperity. London, UK: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
[2] Swan, M. (2010). “Social economic networks and the new intangibles.” Online text from the Broader Perspective blog. 
[3] Swan. M. (2009). “New Banks, New Currencies and New Markets in a Multicurrency World: Roadmap for a Post-Scarcity Economy by 2050.” Create Futures IberoAmérica, Enthusiasmo Cultural, São Paolo Brazil, October 14, 2009.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Bergson-Deleuze: Incorporating Duration into Nanocognition

French philosophers Bergson and Deleuze bring to nanocognition and machine ethics interfaces the philosophical conceptualizations of image, movement, time, perception, memory, and reality that can be considered for implementation in tools for both cognitive enhancement and subjectivation (the greater actualization of human potential).

From the standpoint of an Ethics of Perception of Nanocognition, Bergson and Deleuze stress the need to see perception in itself, and machine ethics interfaces could possibly help us do this through the concept of Cinema 3: the perception-image. Having had only one default (undoubled) means of perception (taking the actualized perceptions of daily life as the only kind of perception, just as we have taken linear, spatialized, narrative time as the only form of time) has meant that we have not considered that there may be multiple ways to perceive, and that these might exist on a virtual plane of possible perceiving, and coalesce through difference into actual perception. At minimum, our nanocognitive prosthetics might be able to introduce and manage the notion of multiplicity in virtual and actual perception.

Bergson-Deleuze exhorts us to notice the doubled, internal, qualitative, subjective experience of lived phenomena like movement, time, perception, reality, and ourselves. In particular, nanocognition allows us to see the full doubling of perception, because there cannot be a doubling if there is only one unexamined mode, if perception in itself cannot be seen. It is only through duration - the doubled, subjective experience of perception (the experience of perception itself) that its virtuality and multiplicity (possibility) can be seen. Importantly, the consequence of seeing the doubled side of perception and reality is that it allows us to tune into the possibility of possibility itself. The real goal of Bergson-Deleuze is not just seeing different possibilities for ourselves, but seeing possibility itself; this is the ultimate implication for nanocognition – conceiving of nanocognition as pure possibility in and of itself.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dynamic Group Cognitive Coordination through Wearable Tech

A surprising ‘new functionality’ enabler of smartwatches and wearable tech is not just getting real-time alerts and notifications to a single user as the front-end of the seamless connected computing world, but group coordination. Real-time group coordination could foster a whole new class of wearable applications, for a wide range of ‘serious’ and ‘fun’ uses in both large and small groups.

35 teams presented at the Apple WatchKit Hackathon at Silicon Valley’s Hacker Dojo on Sunday November 23, 2014. Many interesting apps were shown, mostly for only a single smartwatch like MoodyBaby, NowCash, MedAlert, ItsRaining, LoveTap, and ScrollforSushi.

Best Tech was won by this author’s own team project for WatchSet: a multi-player social gaming app for smartwatch wearers in proximity to self-discover and play interactive games (Figure 1).

Figure 1: WatchSet Multi-player Social Gaming App for Smartwatch.
Large-scale Dynamic Cognitive Coordination
The level of where we are starting to operate now with technology is automating lower-level cognitive tasks. Linking any and all data streams on-demand in the connected computing world is allowing us to conceive of automation in new ways - as both mechanical task relief and cognitive processing offload. This suggests that we may be able to shift the whole way we interact with the world, and organize human activity in new and dynamically coordinated ways, that are potentially at a much larger scale than has been possible previously.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bitcoin and Science: DNA is the Original Decentralized System

What is the role (if any) of Bitcoin and blockchain technology with regard to the natural world and traditional science? One obvious link is using the blockchain as a means of improving distributed community computing projects with tracking and remuneration. BOINC, whose software runs SETI@home, has introduced Gridcoin, and [Protein]Folding@home has introduced Foldingcoin. In addition, these distributed community computing models could be extended using blockchain technology as a way to coordinate and offer supercomputing time to DIYscientists; opening up access to a scarce resource which was previously only available to professional researchers (Zennet). Other projects are investigating a way to harness otherwise wasted crypto-mining cycles (where the computing problem (computing a nonce) must be deliberately intensive, wasteful, and one-way), like Primecoin’s system (, of requiring miners to find long chains of prime numbers instead of otherwise unusable hashes.

Sense-making Models: Religion, Science, Political-Economy, Information
There is a more fundamental link between the blockchain and science in the grand scope of our human models for making sense of the world: religion, science, political-economy, and now information. Information is an interesting paradigm by which we are starting to see the structure of the world and make sense of it, both in physical and digital reality. The blockchain is an information technology, and the Internet and the blockchain provide a heightened information climate; a means of improving and modulating the resolution of information through faster more-expedient transfer, discovery, deployment, and use.

Information as a Sense-making Paradigm Reconfigures Science
The reach of information as a sense-making paradigm can be seen in how this idea is reconfiguring approaches to science. One way is in the growth and pervasiveness of big data and data-intensive science. Nearly every field of traditional study now has a computational complement (computational biology, computational astronomy, computational philosophy, computational law, etc.). The scientific method is transformed from a narrow hypothesis-experimentation loop to dynamic hypothesis formation per large-data results, vastly scaling the degree of experimental activity.

DNA: The Original Decentralized System
Even more profoundly, information is changing how we think about problems in science. For example, the old thinking was that chemistry and molecular biology are the conditions for life, and this is true in the sense that they are the substrate, the hardware for life. But now life is being seen as an information problem. Biology is a software system that runs on the substrate of chemistry and molecular biology. Wetware biology is the language of information, a software system to signal, transcribe, transmit information, encode and decode information, and send secure messages; a lot like a blockchain system. Biology is perhaps the original decentralized system; every cell has the full instruction set, the organism’s entire DNA, like Bitcoind nodes have the full ledger of every transaction.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blockchain AI: Consensus as the Mechanism to foster ‘Friendly’ AI

The blockchain is the decentralized public ledger upon which cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin run; the blockchain is possibly the next Internet; the blockchain is an information technology; the blockchain is a trustless network; the blockchain is an M2M/IOT payment network for the machine economy; and the blockchain is a consensus model at scale, the mechanism we have been waiting for that could help to usher in an era of friendly machine intelligence. The blockchain’s consensus mechanism could be instrumental in the connected world of Bitcoin which necessarily accommodates communication between humans and machines, and the possibility of increasingly autonomous machine actions and entities which could lead to artificial intelligence and a technological singularity (a moment when machine intelligence supersedes human intelligence).

Large Possibility Space for Intelligence
Speculatively looking towards the longer term, there may be a large possibility space of intelligence that includes humans, enhanced humans, different forms of human-machine hybrids, digital mind uploads, and different forms of artificial intelligence like simulated brains and advanced machine learning algorithms. These intelligences would likely not be operating in isolation, but would be connected to communications networks. To achieve their goals, digital intelligences will want to conduct certain transactions over the network, many of which could be managed by blockchain and other consensus mechanisms.

Only Friendly AIs are able to get their Transactions Executed
One of the real benefits of consensus models is that they could possibly enforce friendly AI, which is to say cooperative, moral players within a society. In decentralized trust networks, an agent’s reputation (where agents themselves remain pseudonymous) could be an important factor in whether its transactions could be executed, such that malicious players cannot get their transactions executed or recognized on the network. (It does not matter if malicious players masquerade as bonafide players since the reputation requirement and network incentives elicit good behavior from all players, malicious and bonafide alike). Some of the key smartnetwork operations that any digital intelligence may want executed are secure resource access, identity authentication and validation, and economic exchange. Effectively, any network transaction that an intelligent agent needs to fulfill their goals could require some form of access or authentication that is consensus-signed, and which cannot be obtained unless the agent has a good (benevolent) reputational standing in the smartnetwork. This is how Friendly AI could be effectuated in a blockchain consensus-based model.

The Blockchain Consensus-Recommended Data is a High-Resolution Information Technology
The blockchain is an information technology, a consensus-derived third tier of modulated, denser, freer-flowing information. Level one is dumb, unenhanced, unmodulated data; level two is socially-recommended data, data elements enriched by social network peer recommendation, and now, level three is blockchain consensus-recommended data, data’s highest-yet recommendation level per group consensus-supported accuracy and quality. Consensus data is data that comes with crowd-voted confirmation of quality, the vote of a populace standing behind the data quality, effectuated by a seamless automated nonce-mining mechanism. Possibly, the blockchain is precisely the kind of scalable information authentication and validation mechanism necessary to expand to a global and eventually beyond-planetary society. The blockchain as an information technology provides high-resolution modulation regarding the quality and authenticity of information.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Counterparty/Ethereum: Why Bitcoin topped $450 today (was under $350 last week)

In the heated development space for Bitcoin 2.0 protocol projects (Figure 1), on November 12, 2014, Counterparty announced that they ported the open-source Ethereum programming language onto their own platform. Ethereum is regarded as one of the most advanced Bitcoin 2.0 projects, a general-purpose Turing-complete cryptocurrency platform. Turing-complete in this sense means able to run any cryptocurrency protocol and any cryptocoin, essentially a universal crypto-platform (the platform wins, not any specific cryptocurrency). Now Counterparty can do this too, serve as a Turing-complete platform, and possibly in a better way than Ethereum since Counterparty is already running on the existing architecture, the Bitcoin blockchain (with 90% cryptocurrency market cap), the de facto standard, already-launched, worldwide, secure platform.

Figure 1: Sample List of Bitcoin 2.0 Protocol Projects. 
(Extended from work by Piotr Piaseki)

This is Good News for All Parties (not just Counterparty): Bitcoin 2.0 is Just Beginning 
This does not mean 'game-over' for Ethereum, or 'game-won' to Counterparty. It is a sign of the dynamism in the space and the rapid innovation that open-source software communities enable (both Ethereum and Counterparty's software is all open-source). Every different project is able to examine and work with the code of the other projects and bring in any and all implementations. It means that good ideas can take seed more rapidly, be improved through iteration, and allow space for the next good ideas. Ethereum and Counterparty both have deep visions for the whole future architecture of the blockchain, and establishing early 'plumbing' foundations can help everyone progress to the next levels. In the seething hive of Bitcoin innovation, these kinds of announcements would be expected to continue, both since the blockchain industry is in early stages of development, and especially due to the open-source code liquidity of the industry.

Smart Contracts
The great benefit is that now Counterparty may be able to quickly launch the ability to do smart contracts on their platform, since Ethereum is known for its intricate focus on smart contract functionality. Smart contracts is the capacity to do more elaborate transactions on the blockchain, moving beyond simple buy-sell currency arrangements to more sophisticated contracts such as a loan with ongoing payments and interest rate resets. However, even before the Ethereum port, Counterparty did have some degree of smart contract capability (certainly for the basic smart contracts that are not even yet widely-used), as does the Bitcoin blockchain itself, and other solutions like Colored Coins and Coinprism. Other Bitcoin 2.0 protocol projects such has Ripple have their own smart contract facility, Codius.

The key point is that the blockchain industry is currently building out the infrastructure, the enabling layers in a protocol stack, the plumbing of the new layers of the Internet. There is tremendous functionality fungibility across blockchain protocols and platforms. In the blockchain plumbing layer, it might be possible to do some degree of smart contracts and tokenized altcoin issuance and multi-sig wallets on all cryptoplatforms. The questions are therefore 1) which Bitcoin protocol 2.0 platforms will emerge as standard after the intense innovation and development phase, and 2) which platforms will prove to be the most secure and raid/theft-free, and 3) at the higher level, which will be the new value-added services (the Netscape, Amazon, and Uber of the future) built atop the Bitcoin protocol plumbing protocol layers.

Take-Away Message 
The important take-away message is that the Bitcoin 2.0 protocols space may only heat up with more announcements to be expected, and more projects forming, merging, dying, and cross-implementing. Also that there could continue to be substantial volatility in the price of Bitcoin. The Counterparty announcement should be seen as support for the overall blockchain industry and underlines the clear demand to move beyond Bitcoin 1.0 currency (even as this segment is still developing) to Bitcoin 2.0 contracts. This has always been part of the initial vision set forth by Satoshi Nakamoto:
"The [Bitcoin] design supports a tremendous variety of possible transaction types that I designed years ago. Escrow transactions, bonded contracts, third party arbitration, multi-party signature, etc. If Bitcoin catches on in a big way, these are things we’ll want to explore in the future, but they all had to be designed at the beginning to make sure they would be possible later." (Nakamoto). 
Reference: Nakamoto, S. (2010). Re: Transactions and Scripts: DUP HASH160 ... EQUALVERIFY CHECKSIG. Bitcointalk.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Bitcoin 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0: Currency, Contracts, and Applications, beyond Financial Markets

Bitcoin 1.0 is currency - the deployment of cryptocurrencies in applications related to cash such as currency transfer, remittance, and digital payment systems. Bitcoin 2.0 is contracts - the whole slate of economic, market, and financial applications using the blockchain that are more extensive than simple cash transactions like stocks, bonds, futures, loans, mortgages, titles, smart property, and smart contracts. Bitcoin 3.0 is blockchain applications beyond currency, finance, and markets, particularly in the areas of government, health, science, literacy, culture, and art. 
Bitcoin and blockchain technology is much more than a digital currency, the blockchain is an information technology, potentially on the order of the Internet (‘the next Internet’), but even more pervasive and quickly-configuring. 
Prevalence of Decentralized Models 
Even if the currently developing models of Bitcoin and blockchain technology are not the final paradigm (there are many problematic flaws), the bigger trend, decentralized models as a class, could have a pronounced impact. If not the blockchain industry, there would probably be something else, and in fact there probably will be other complements to the blockchain industry anyway. It is just that the blockchain industry is one of the first identifiable large-scale implementations of decentralization models, conceived and executed at a new and more complex level of human activity.

Decentralized models have the potential to reorganize all manner of human activity, and quickly, because they are trustless, the friction of the search and trust-establishment process in previous models of human interaction is eliminated. This could mean greatly accelerated rates and levels of activity, on a much greater humanity-level scale. The blockchain (decentralized network coordination technology) could emerge as a fundamental infrastructure element in the model to scale humanity to its next levels of orders-of-magnitude-larger progress.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Next Disruptive Computing Paradigm: Connected World of Bitcoin

One model of understanding the modern world is through computing paradigms, with a new paradigm arising on the order of one per decade (Figure1). First, there were the mainframe and PC (personal computer) paradigms, and then the Internet revolutionized everything. Mobile and social networking has been the most recent paradigm. The current paradigm is that of the Connected World which includes Bitcoin/blockchain technology as the economic overlay to what is increasingly becoming a seamlessly connected world of multi-device computing that comprises wearable computing, Internet-of-Things (IOT) sensors, smartphones, tablets, laptops, Quantified Self-Tracking devices (i.e.; Fitbit), smarthome, smartcar, and smartcity. Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technology could be the next major disruptive technology and worldwide computing paradigm, on the order of the Internet in terms of the potential for pervasively reconfiguring of all human activity as the Internet did. Blockchain technology could be deployed and adopted much more quickly too, given the network effect that so many humans worldwide are already linked through the Internet and cellular network technologies.

Figure 1. Disruptive Computing Paradigms.
(Extended from: You say you want a revolution?)
Mainframe, PC, Internet, Social-Mobile, Connected World.

Just as Paradigm 4 functionality (social-mobile (i.e.; mobile apps for everything and sociality as a website property (liking, commenting, friending, forum participation)) has become an expected feature of technology properties, so too could Paradigm 5 functionality. Paradigm 5 functionality could be the experience of a continuously-connected seamless physical-world multi-device computing layer, with a blockchain technology overlay for payments, and not just payments, but micropayments, decentralized exchange, token earning and spending, digital asset invocation and transfer, and smart contract issuance and execution; all as the economic layer the web never had. Apple Pay (Apple’s token-based app-based eWallet) could be the critical intermediary step in moving to a full-fledged cryptocurrency world where the blockchain becomes the seamless economic layer of the web. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Connected World Wearables Free Cognitive Surplus

The immediate reaction to the Connected World (26 billion devices by 2020 as predicted by Gartner; more than four connected devices per human; or really 1 for some and 20 for others) is the notion that man is becoming infantilized: over-tracked, over-surveilled, and over-directed by technology, and certainly over-dependent upon technology. We no longer seem able to think for ourselves with the cloud automatically piloting all aspects of day-to-day life with reminders, notifications, and ambiently-updating data. Worse, our lives seem automated and automatonish; where is the caprice and serendipity, the humanness?

What is the Connected World?
Increasingly we are living in a seamlessly connected world of multi-device computing that includes wearable computing, Internet-of-Things (IOT) sensors, smartphones, tablets, laptops, Quantified Self-Tracking devices (i.e.; Fitbit), smarthome, smartcar, and smartcity. We enjoy the benefits of the automation that comes with this: cloud linkage of quantified-self wearable sensor data, online social profiles, calendaring, email, smart home controls, and smart transport connected to smart city data feeds. Google automatically wakes us up in the morning (knowing our schedule (Google calendar) and our biorhythms (sleep monitor)). Google contacts continuously monitor our glucose level, and in cahoots with MyBasis (number of steps walked) and Vessyl (drink detection), recommend food and drink choices during the day, and give us our fitness profile, calories consumed, and health biostatus reports at the end of the day. Apple HealthKit (iOS 8) automatically records and uploads 200 different biometrics to the cloud. Apply Pay automates payment. Amazon Fresh quadcopter drones could circle our homes with replenishment supplies within one hour of detecting an empty milk bottle. NFC/iBeacon proximity marketing could push-notify us at the aisle level when we are in the store. TrackR alerts us if we have lost our wallet or keys, and loved ones track our geo-presence and send us haptic hugs through our MyTJacket.

Cognitive Surplus Unleashed
The easy knee-jerk reaction is that this is bad news - the Connected World means the infantilization of man by technology. However, going beyond this, it must be asked what is really happening at the higher level with the connected world, and how this could be beneficial. In fact, what is happening at the higher level is that huge classes of human time-occupying planning and coordination activities are being removed from human purview and pushed onto technology. Currently we spend exorbitant amounts of time and energy on coordination, planning, and organizing our activity, and dynamically updating and re-organizing it on demand; all the while also engaged in the subordinate activity of seeking and obtaining information related to planning and coordination. Planning and coordination constitutes 100% of our time sometimes. What Connected World cloud technologies do at the higher level is automate all of this. 
The Connected World relocates planning as a whole class of human cognitive activity, it is outsourced to technology. 
While many people might enjoy relinquishing planning and coordination as a class of human cognitive activity, others might regard it as a humanness that should be preserved, that is some how unnatural to discard. However, the more relevant question is what we will do with all of the time saved once technology has automated our planning and coordination activities. The Connected World as automated life-planning could free up over 50% of our time and allow us to more fully cogitate higher-level problems and develop new learning and interest areas. The Connected World is the automation and outsourcing of lower-level cognitive tasks that currently consume prodigious amount of our time and effort. In the newly-freed cognitive expansiveness, we could become engaged in new classes of problems, and more fully actualize our potential as humans.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

iSchools: Contemporary Information Technology Theory Studies

The perfect merger of academic rigor and contemporary thinking has come together in the concept of iSchools, which give practical consideration and interesting learning opportunities to the most relevant issue of our time: information. So far there are over 50 worldwide iSchools; a global pool, like bitcoin for academia. The March 2014 conference was held in Berlin and the March 2015 conference will be at UC Irvine. With higher education under reinvention pressure from all directions, the possibility of making institutional learning relevant again cannot be underscored enough.

iSchools are the perfect venue to take up not just the practical agenda within the information technology field but also the theoretical, philosophical, and societal dimensions of the impact of information technology. There have started to be some conferences regarding ‘big data theory’ (Theory of Big Data, University College London, Jan 2015), and a calling out of the need for ‘big data theory’ (Big Data Needs a Big Theory to Go with It, Scientific American, Rise of Big Data underscores need for theory, Science News). These efforts are good, but mostly concern having theory to explain the internal operations of the field, not its greater societal and philosophical effect. In addition to how ‘big data theory’ is currently being conceptualized, an explicit consideration of the general theoretical and social impact of information technology is needed. Floridi’s distinction re: philosophy of information is apt; the main focus is how the field changes society, not the internecine methods of the field.

Research Agenda:
Contemporary Information Technology Theory Studies 
Here is a thumbnail sketch of a research agenda for Contemporary Information Technology Theory Studies. Early examples of topics taken up at institutes and think tanks (like Data&Society) are a good start and should be expanded and included in the academic setting. A more appropriately robust agenda will consider the broad theoretical, social, and philosophical impact of the classes of information technology below that are dramatically reshaping the world, including specifically how our ideas of self and world, and future possibilities are changing.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Bitcoin Newbie Series: How to Get and Spend Bitcoin

We aren't used to authority being a peer-to-peer responsibility as opposed to something imposed by a centralized institution. Authority floating freely has already happened in information - when information became decentralized with blogging and the restructuring of the media industry, and in entertainment, where individuals became their own taste-makers. In these cases individuals must examine content and think for themselves about its quality and validity. The bitcoin revolution is the same thing happening now with currency, economics, finance, and monetary policy. It might seem harder to let go of centralized authority in matters of government and economics as opposed to culture and information but we will mature into it (The number one 'still-not-getting-it' question with bitcoin - "But who is running it all?"). Ultimately we could have as many currencies as twitter handles and blogs, all of which may be fully useful and accepted in their own hyperlocal contexts. Blockchain technology is push (user pushes relevant information for this transaction only) not pull (credit card/bank info on file to be pulled anytime authorized). Financial intermediaries operating on blockchain technology (i.e.; Overstock) would not have information stores to have to protect that are inevitably hacked (i.e.; Target, Chase, etc.).

The word bitcoin is confusing because it means three different things. Bitcoin is used to refer to 1) the underlying technology concept (more appropriately called the blockchain, a decentralized ledger that allows individuals to engage in transactions without having to rely on a trusted third-party intermediary), 2) the technology protocol for the implementation of blockchain technology (individuals engaging in peer-to-peer currency transactions via encrypted electronic wallets with miners recording these transactions in the blockchain ledger), and 3) the actual currency itself. It is as if when Paypal launched, they would have called the Internet Paypal, upon which the Paypal protocol was run to transfer funds, and the currency of these funds was Paypal. More precisely, these 3 uses of bitcoin should be delineated as:
  1. The underlying blockchain technology (an information technology akin as a ‘class of thing’ to the Internet) 
  2. The Bitcoin protocol that runs on the blockchain for the tracking and transfer of cryptocurrency funds
  3. The Bitcoin currency (denoted as btc)

The blockchain is a record of where all the btc are, all the addresses they are associated with now, and this history over all time. It is continually updated, every 10 minutes, a new block (a new page is placed in the record book) with all the latest transactions.

Bitcoin is a digital currency. This means that you do not have physical custody of your btc, they are not in your physical possession, they are not on your computer or mobile wallet; they live on the Internet and are associated with addresses (like an email address but too complicated to store in mind). Per your address and encryption key (stored in the digital wallet on your mobile phone or computer), you have the authority to move your btc around and transact them. 'Stolen bitcoin' is a matter of having insecure storage and sharing of passwords and private keys.

How to get Bitcoin? (after step 1, get yourself a digital wallet mobile app like BlockchainInfo or Mycelium
  • (Easiest) Receive bitcoin as a gift or payment from someone else
  • Buy bitcoin locally through bitcoin meetups or Satoshi Square trading events
  • Exchange USD or other traditional currency for bitcoin without giving out your personal identifying information: Circle 
  • Exchange USD for bitcoin where you do specify your personal details at one of the exchanges/markets like Coinbase 
  • Buy bitcoin locally from an individual via LocalBitcoins or (coming) OpenBazaar 
  • Gift yourself bitcoin with giftcards: use Gyft,, Brawker, or Amazon giftcards 

Where to spend Bitcoin?
What is the Bitcoin Exchange Rate? 

How to accept Bitcoin if you are a merchant (save on merchant processing fees, welcome bitcoin customers):
Intro Presentation: Beginner Bitcoin Workshop
Advanced Presentation: Blockchain: The Information Technology of the Future

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blockchain Health - Remunerative Health Data Commons & HealthCoin RFPs

The bigger concept behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is blockchain technology. The blockchain (a chain of transaction blocks) is a public transaction ledger, automatically downloaded and stored digitally in electronic wallet applications; a digital record of all transactions in a certain asset class like bitcoin. There can be different kinds of blockchains (ledgers) for recording and tracking different kinds of assets. Blockchain health is the idea of using blockchain technology for health-related applications.

At least four principal blockchain health ideas have been articulated so far:
  • Blockchain Personal Health Record Storage – Personal health records would be stored and administered via blockchain like a vast electronic EMR system. Taking advantage of the pseudonymous (e.g.; coded to a digital address not a name) nature of blockchain technology, personal health records would be encoded as digital assets and put on the blockchain just like other assets like currency (bitcoin, litecoin, dogecoin, etc.). Users would permission doctors and other parties into their records as needed via their private key. In addition to creating vast repositories of medical health data records, the blockchain could also be a mechanism for quantified self data commons to amass and analyze data for preventive medicine purposes.
  • Blockchain Health Research Commons - Health research could be conducted by aggregating personal health records stored on the blockchain. Users may feel more comfortable contributing their personal health data to a public data commons like a blockchain 1) in an encrypted pseudonymous form, and 2) for some amount of remuneration via bitcoin, or different kinds of healthcoin (which could denominate HSA dollars and be spent back into health services). The benefit of storing health data on the blockchain is that it can be analyzed but remain private. DNA.bits is a startup in the blockchain health research space.
  • Blockchain Health Document Confirmation Services - Confirming that certain kinds of health information exist like proof-of-insurance, test results, prescriptions, status, condition, treatment, and physician referrals are just a few examples of health document-related services often required. The ‘notary function’ is a standard application envisioned for blockchain technology. This is the digital encoding of all manner of important documents (driver’s license, identity card, passport, home/auto titles, auto insurance, etc.) to the blockchain, which can be verified in seconds with encryption technology as opposed to hours and days with traditional manual technology.
  • Doctor Vendor RFP Services – doctors and health practices could bid to supply medical services needed by patient-consumers. Like Uber drivers bid for driver assignments with consumers, doctor practices could bid for hip replacements and other needed health services, at minimum bringing some degree of price transparency and improved efficiency to the health sector. Further, this bidding could be automated via tradenets. 
More Information: 
The Institute for Blockchain Studies
Presentation (summary) and slides:  Blockchain: The Information Technology of the Future

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bitcoin Newbie? How to get Started

Consult this primer: Getting Started with Bitcoin from (an industry-supported foundation), and FAQ.

Step 1: Get yourself a wallet (app/client) such as Coinbase, Blockchain, Electrum (beginner's guide), Mycelium (Android), Bitcoin-Qt (now Bitcoin Core). 

Step 2. Obtain some Bitcoin - Ideally someone will have given you some, or you can buy some from someone local. Another possibility is gifting yourself some with eGifter or other services.You can always convert dollars to bitcoin. You will need to provide your identity if you are going to transfer dollars into bitcoin with one of the wallet services (such as via ACH, wire or credit card).

Step 3. Advanced - Mixing Transactions. When you actually go to do transactions, you may wish to use a mixing service like Send Shared (SharedCoin) to mask the funds original source by mixing them with other funds. Services typically charge a 1% fee.

Step 4: Check out the local Bitcoin community and the increasing number of ways to spend and earn Bitcoin. OpenBazaar is a decentralized marketplace for instantly trading with anyone using Bitcoin - local anonymous trading - maybe supplanting or augmenting eBay and CraigsList. LocalBitCoins remains an expanding local resource for buying and selling Bitcoin, and there are of course Bitcoin ATMs and kiosks.

Where did Bitcoin come from? 
The primordial Bitcoin or stone blockchain is Rai stones on the Island of Yap, used exactly as in the current purpose, as a public ledger of economic transactions inspectable by all.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Proximity Marketing: Opportunity for Rich-Attribute Conveyance

Real-time Location-based Services (RT-LBS or just RT-LS) is an important new concept in mobile marketing. These offerings are starting to tout the ability to deliver information and services based on the real-time location of a person. Some key examples are receiving a mobile phone-based notification of a restaurant offer while walking in a downtown area or a product coupon while shopping in a specific grocery aisle. (Although there would need to be a saturation algorithm adjustment as potential customers flock to a location.) As is true generally with the advent of newtech, there is a much richer level of attribute conveyance beyond that of economic incentive that could be demonstrated in new applications. For example, why not broadcast key real-time attributes that a user has affinity for beyond or in addition to price such as ambiance, noise level, wait time, including for example near real-time photos from the establishment. A time-to-be-seated comparison with map overlay app can be imagined, upleveling the concept from the harangue of groupon discounts.

For indoor locations where there is no line-of-sight to GPS, there are other solutions, and this is where imminent progress is being made. There are WiFi networks (where even having WiFi enabled is enough know that ‘you are here’ or at least that your phone is ‘here’), Bluetooth Low Energy (per most smartphones), and now iBeacon and similar technologies. iBeacon, etc. is essentially an RFID technology where there would be a beacon on each grocery store aisle that could track customers and deliver coupons or other notifications. However, Bluetooth would need to be enabled which most smartphone keep off. In all of the industry promoted excitement over proximity marketing with real-time couponing, one cannot help but notice that truly revolutionary progress, for example auto-checkout per item-level RFID tags or some other mechanism remains a hard, expensive, and unsolved problem. What about remote hover cam item selection and personalized drone delivery?

For outdoor retail locations, GPS is still a good solution as it can locate a person within a meter per satellite pings. GPS resolution is already available in centimeter resolution for professionals (at $1000 and reportedly now at $500). This cost/performance curve could continue to ratchet down and centimeter-level GPS resolution could harken exciting new classes of location-based technologies, for example medical applications that require sub-body level detail.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Top 5 Killer Apps: QS-Automotive Sensors

The Internet of Things means not just that computing devices have connectivity to the cloud but that they are connected to each other, and therefore that novel applications can be developed in this rich ecosystem. One area for development is linking quantified self wearable sensors with automotive sensors for applications including Fatigue Detection, Real-time Parking and Assistance, Anger/Stress Reduction, Keyless Authentication, and DIY Diagnostics.

The auto industry may be poised for tremendous change in the next two decades with self-driving cars, denser cities, more cars on the road, and alternative fuel sources expected. This suggests new concepts in personal transportation, including redefining 'what a car is' to shift from a 'dumb conveyance' to an interactive platform communicating in real-time with other drivers, smartcity infrastructure, driver and passenger biometric data, and other sensor/internet of things information streams.

 Smart Pod Conveyance of the Future?

 (Image: M. Ghezel)

Top 5 Killer Apps 

1. Fatigue Detection
  • Fatigue is implicated in 20% of accidents. Early warning signs are a slower driver heart rate and breathing rate, and posture slump. These could be detected through wearable sensors or auto-based sensors, and an intervention provided (verbal alert, seat vibration, music, or puff of air). 
2. Real-time Parking and Assistance
  • Up to 75% of city center congestion may be caused by drivers looking for parking. Parking garage data could be connected to on-board navigation systems to show and guide drivers to available spots, and further reserve and pre-pay for spots where a user presents a QR code on a smartwatch or smartphone to a smart parking gate like from SureSpot to obtain the parking ticket [and directions to the spot]. 
  • A related idea is real-time automatic road-side assistance, where automotive sensors would assess crash impact and predict damage. Then if appropriate the vehicle could alert local trauma centers (tier 1-5) and first responders. If the accident is less serious, if the driver has permissioned such a service, an app could automatically request local vendor service quotes.

3. Anger/Stress Reduction
  • Anger reduction is the most obvious area for improvement where most simply the driver’s mental state could be read from sensors and interventions provided such as breathing exercises, music, and question-based (re-focusing) intervention. 
  • Smart steering wheels with heart sensors could be used to detect heart attacks. Medical emergencies are implicated in 1% of accidents, and this number is growing with active adults driving longer, and commute distances lengthening. 
  • Wearable or auto-based sensors could provide a daily health check that is completely transparent to the driver measuring heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, skin conductance, and glucose levels, and sent through the cloud to the driver’s personal EMR or QS data portal. 
  • Addressing stress as a complex adaptive system, multiple data streams could be integrated into a ‘leave on time’ app. A key stressor in distracted driving is being late. An individual’s online calendar could be connected with real-time traffic data so smarthome or smartwatch alerts communicate to leave earlier for an appointment and confirm if this happens, and measure drive-time stress. Financial incentives could be offered for both health and auto insurance discounts for reduced stress and smart driving.
4. Keyless Authentication
  • Keyless authentication, could facilitate one-time or short-term access, for example for automated car rental, assuming anti-theft concerns are allayed. Vehicle authentication and access could be via Bluetooth, QR code, blockchain technologies, and/or smartwatch fingerprint readers for an added layer of validation.
5. DIY Diagnostics
  • DIY diagnostics accessed with tools like the CarChip could be an important app. Just like DIYscience and DIY health, on-board diagnostic data could be collected and linked to user-friendly consumer apps for pro-active notification and preventive maintenance. Asynchronous reminders (later while the driver is relaxing at home) could consist of the vehicle tweeting the driver more granular detail about its condition and potential maintenance, including the projected cost per different future time points if the maintenance is delayed.

More Details and References to Statistical Citations: Sensor Ubiquity: Blockchain Tech and Automotive-Quantified Self Integrated Sensor Applications developed for Toyota's Collaborative Safety Research Center.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Cognitive Nanorobots for Pathology Resoulution and Enhancement

One way to think of cognitive nanorobots is as a subset of medical nanorobots, meaning nanorobots for use in the body related to medical purposes, in this case, neural processes. Nanorobots are tiny computing machines at the nanoscale that can perform a variety of operations within the human body and beyond.

In the strictest sense, nanorobots are still conceptual: the Oxford English Dictionary definition of nanorobots (nanobots) is hypothetical very small (nanoscale) self-propelled machines, especially ones that have some degree of autonomy and can reproduce. While this definition that includes autonomy and reproducibility is one for the farther future, in reality there are a number of nanoscale inorganic objects that have already been in use in the body for some time in a variety of medical applications. So far, the activity scope of these nano-objects has been pathology resolution, but the same kinds of techniques and characterization of the underlying biological processes could be explored for enhancement purposes.

The most developed area of nanomedicine is nanoparticle drug delivery (designed particles that disgorge cargo in cellular destinations per simple onboard logic instructions) and other therapeutic techniques, followed by nano-diagnostics, and nano-imaging (like quantum dot imaging) (Boysen 2014). Some of the more recent interesting applications are nanosponge waste soak-up and biomimetic detoxification (Hu 2013), optogenetics (controlling the brain with light) (Klapoetke 2014), and neural dust brain sensors that might be able to read whole sections of brain activity externally (Seo 2013). The current status of the development of neural nanomedicine is well covered in the scientific literature (Provenzale 2010, Kateb 2013, Schulz 2009, Mavroidis 2014, and Boehm 2013).

Thinking in the longer-term, Robert Freitas has designed several classes of medical nanorobots such as respirocytes, clottocytes, vasculoids, and microbivores that could perform a variety of biophysical clean-up, maintenance, and augmentation functions in the body (Freitas 2003). One example of neural nanorobotic clean-up is autonomous diamondoid “defuscin” class nanodevices. These are conceptual nanodevices designed to eliminate the residual lipofuscin waste granules in lysosomes (the ‘trash compactor’ of the cell) that the body cannot fully digest.

Boehm, F. (2013). Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions. New York, NY: CRC Press, especially Chapter 17: Nanomedicine in Regenerative Biosystems, Human Augmentation, and Longevity, 654-722.
Boysen, E. (2014). Nanotechnology in Medicine – Nanomedicine. Retrieved from
Freitas, R., Jr. (2003). Nanomedicine, Vol. IIA: Biocompatibility. Austin, TX: Landes Bioscience.
Kateb, B. & Heiss, J.D. (Eds). (2013). The Textbook of Nanoneuroscience and Nanoneurosurgery. New York, NY: CRC Press.
Klapoetke, N.C., Murata, Y., Kim, S.S., Pulver, S.R., Birdsey-Benson, A., et al. (2014). Independent Optical Excitation of Distinct Neural Populations. Nature Methods, 11, 338–346.
Mavroidis, C. (2014). Nano-Robotics in Medical Applications: From Science Fiction to Reality, Northeastern University. Retrieved from
Provenzale, J.M. & Mohs, A.M. (2010). Nanotechnology in Neurology: Current Status and Future Possibilities. US Neurology, 6(1), 12-17.
Seo, D., Carmena, J.M., Rabaey, J.M., Alon, E., Maharbiz, M.M. (2013). Neural Dust: An Ultrasonic, Low Power Solution for Chronic Brain-Machine Interfaces. arXiv, 1307.2196 [q-bio.NC]. Retrieved from
Schulz, M.J., Shanov, V.N., Yun, Y. (Eds.). (2009). Nanomedicine Design of Particles, Sensors, Motors, Implants, Robots, and Devices. New York, NY: Artech House.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Complexity Science: Does Autocatalysis Explain the Emergence of Organizations?

One of the newer complexity science books is The Emergence of Organizations and Markets by John F. Padgett and Walter W. Powell (2012).

At first glance, the book might seem like just another contemporarily-popular social network analysis dressed up in complexity language. The book presents the claim that chemistry concept autocatalysis is the explanatory model for the emergence and growth of organizations. The argument is that autocatalysis (the catalysis of a reaction by one of its products) is like the process of individuals acquiring skills which thereby transform products and organizations: “Skills, like chemical reactions, are rules that transform products into other products” (pp. 70-1). The process is reciprocal and ongoing as actors create relations in the short-term, and relations create actors in the longer-term.

One response of a critical reader would be asking the degree to which autocatalysis has explanatory power over the formation and persistence of organizations. In the absence of the consideration of other models, or the extent to which autocatalysis does not fit, it is hard to assess where this model falls on the anecdotal-to-accurate spectrum. This is a potential problem with all attempts, however valiant, to transplant the models and structures from one field to another. Going beyond interesting associations to correlations and even causal links is challenging.

Also not uncommonly, the authors postulate that the interesting, novel, and value-contributing aspects of a system (in this context, an organization) occur in the interstices, edges, and anomalies of the system. In actuality, this might be just one possibility (and not the principal element according to thinkers like Simondon for whom novelty most directly emerges from the central interaction of the components, features, and functionality). Worse, seeking the interstice forces the focus onto identifying borders, edges, and interstices, defining the phases of inherently [non-definable] dynamical systems. Also with a Simondonian eye, this is to miss the nature and contribution of dynamic processes at the higher level - this is trying to corral them into identifiable morphologies instead of apprehending their functionality.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Intracortical Recording Devices

A key future use of neural electrode technology envisioned for nanomedicine and cognitive enhancement is intracortical recording devices that would capture the output signals of multiple neurons that are related to a given activity, for example signals associated with movement, or the intent of movement. Intracortical recording devices will require the next-generation of more robust and sophisticated neural interfaces combined with advanced signal processing, and algorithms to properly translate spontaneous neural action potentials into command signals [1]. Capturing, recording, and outputting neural signals would be a precursor to intervention and augmentation.

Toward the next-generation functionality necessary for intracortical recording devices, using organic rather than inorganic transistors, Bink et al. demonstrated flexible organic thin film transistors with sufficient performance for neural signal recording that can be directly interfaced with neural electrode arrays [2].

Since important brain network activity exists at temporal and spatial scales beyond the resolution of existing implantable devices, high-density active electrode arrays may be one way to provide a higher-resolution interface with the brain to access and influence this network activity. Integrating flexible electronic devices directly at the neural interface might possibly enable thousands of multiplexed electrodes to be connected with far fewer wires. Active electrode arrays have been demonstrated using traditional inorganic silicon transistors, but may not be cost-effective for scaling to large array sizes (8 × 8 cm).

Also, toward neural signal recording, Keefer et al. developed carbon nanotube coated electrodes, which increased the functional resolution, and thus the localized selectivity and potential influence of implanted neural electrodes. The team electrochemically populated conventional stainless steel and tungsten electrodes with carbon nanotubes which amplified both the recording of neural signals and the electronic stimulation of neurons (in vitro, and in rat and monkey models). The clinical electrical excitation of neuronal circuitry could be of significant benefit for epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, persistent pain, hearing deficits, and depression. The team thus demonstrated an important advance for brain-machine communication: increasing the quality of electrode-neuronal interfaces by lowering the impedance and elevating the charge transfer of electrodes [3].

Full Article: Nanomedical Cognitive Enhancement

[1] Donoghue, J.P., Connecting cortex to machines: Recent advances in brain interfaces. Nat. Neurosci. 5 (Suppl), 1085–1088, 2002.
[2] Bink, H., Lai, Y., Saudari, S.R., Helfer, B., Viventi, J., Van der Spiegel, J., Litt, B., and Kagan, C., Flexible organic electronics for use in neural sensing. Conf. Proc. IEEE Eng. Med. Biol. Soc. 2011, 5400–5403, 2011.
[3] Keefer, E.W., Botterman, B.R., Romero, M.I., Rossi, A.F., and Gross, G.W., Carbon nanotube coating improves neuronal recordings. Nat. Nanotechnol. 3(7), 434–439, 2008.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Escaping the Totalization of my own Thinking

One of the highest-order things that we can do for ourselves and others is try to escape our own thinking style. Each of us has a way of thinking, a default of which we may not even be aware. Even if we are aware that we each have a personal thinking style, we may not think to identify it and contrast it with other thinking styles, consider changing our own style, and even what it might mean to be portable between thinking styles.

This is a form of the totalization problem, that being completely within something, it is hard to see outside of the totality of that thing. If we are thinking through our own mind, how can we possibly think or see anything that is not within this realm? By definition, this seems an impossible conundrum; how are we to see what is beyond what we can see? How can we become aware of what we are not aware?

The totalization problem has been an area of considerable philosophical focus, whether there is an exteriority (an outside) to concepts like world and reality, and if so, whether it is reachable. Philosophers like Jacques Derrida thought that yes, escaping totalization (any system that totalizes) would indeed be possible. One way is though literature, which offers its own universe (totalization) but also inevitably a hook to the outside (our world). Another way is through the concept of yes, assent, which has a hearing-party affirming and a talking-party asserting in a dynamic process that cannot be totalized.

In a less complicated way for our own lives, there can be other ways of escaping from the totalization of our thought into an exteriority, an outside where we can see things differently. Explicitly, we can try different ways of experiencing the world by learning other of how people apprehend reality, and noticing that more joy may come from experiencing the journey rather than attaining any endpoint. Perhaps most important is being attuned to new ideas and new ways of thinking and being, especially those that don’t automatically make sense.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Machine Ethics Interfaces

Machine ethics is a term used in different ways. The basic use is in the sense of people attempting to instill some sort of human-centric ethics or morality in the machines we build like robots, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence (Wallach 2010) so that machines do not harm humans either maliciously or unintentionally. This trend may have begun with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. However, there are many different philosophical and other issues with this definition of machine ethics, including the lack of grounds for anthropomorphically assuming that a human ethics would be appropriate for a machine ethics, beyond the context of human-machine interaction.

There is another broader sense of the term machine ethics which means any issue pertaining to machines and ethics, including how a machine ethics could be articulated by observing machine behavior, and (in a Simondonian sense (French philosopher Gilbert Simondon)) how different machine classes might evolve their own ethics as they themselves develop over time.

There is yet a third sense of the term machine ethics - to contemplate human-machine hybrids, specifically how humans augmented with nanocognition machines might trigger the development of new human ethical paradigms, for example an ethics of immanence that is completely unlike traditional ethical paradigms and allows for a greater realization of human capacity.

Machine ethics interfaces then, are interfaces (software modules for communication between users and technologies (machines, devices, software, nanorobots)) with ethical aspects deliberately designed into them. This could mean communication about ethical issues, user selection of ethically-related parameters, ethical issues regarding machine behavior, and ethical dimensions transparently built into the technology (like a kill switch in the case of malfunction). Machine ethics interfaces are the modules within machines that interact with living beings regarding ethical issues, pertaining to the ethics of machine behavior or the ethics of human behavior

Machine Ethics: 1) (conventional) technology designers attempting to incorporate models of human-centric morality into machines like robots, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence to prevent humans from being harmed either maliciously or unintentionally, 2) any issue pertaining to machines and ethics, 3) the possibility of new ethical paradigms arising from human augmentation and human-machine hybrids.

Machine Ethics Interfaces: Interfaces (software modules for communication between users and technologies (machines, devices, software, nanorobots)) with ethical aspects deliberately designed into them. This could mean communication about ethical issues, user selection of ethically-related parameters, and ethical dimensions transparently built into the technology (like a kill switch in the case of malfunction).

Wallach, W. (2010). Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Enterprise Bitcoin and the Brain as a CryptoCurrency Network

If Dell, New Egg, and TigerDirect now accept Bitcoin, and Paypal's CEO contemplates the same, eBay and Amazon might also accept Bitcoin in the not too distant future, and this would start to really push cryptocurrency into the mainstream. Faster still if Google Wallet were to join. Bitcoin seems to be 'going enterprise' (= key step to mainstream) as fast as the Internet-of-things (Enterprise IOT: Microsoft, Ernst & Young, etc. offering connected POS (point of sale) networks and all 'devices' as an IOT service to businesses). However, even though Bitcoin in its entirety is a radically new concept, from a vendor standpoint, accepting Bitcoin is not a big deal - it is analogous to accepting any other kind of payment mechanism. Anyone (individual or enterprise) receiving, or wanting to pay out in Bitcoin can easily convert national currencies via Coinbase, bitpay, or other sites, or now the purported (as of July 2014) 33 worldwide Robocoin Bitcoin ATMs. Conceptually, Bitcoin is a payment mechanism for vendors, but for money businesses like banks, it is much more critical to develop explicit Bitcoin strategies and policies.

However, there is still much risk in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin as a currency is still new and volatile, and it is not clear if it is a faddish or persistent transformation, although the concept may have considerable resiliency even if specific cryptocurrencies do not (i.e.; Baconcoin). Also, there is only about $8 billion USD in Bitcoin now, and it would need to be on the order of $50-100 billion USD to receive more serious financial consideration. The currency does have a number of important features that could propel acceptance including architecture (psuedo-anonymous and trustless), openness, low-cost (eliminates currency exchange costs), and fungible worldwide availability. As Kevin Kelly points out, Bitcoin is not just a payment mechanism, it is a revolutionary way to enable collaboration at an unprecedented scale. Bitcoin is the reinvention of the institution of capital. Further, in the automation economy, Bitcoin is automated and open accounting; a transparent ledger. The concept of Bitcoin and its architecture and operation is a new model which is not unlike the brain, where (at minimum) many functions are handled automatically, and there is a certain modular aspect to function. Bitcoin might be a universal mathematical model of nature that human intelligence is just now discovering.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prediction Markets Round-Up

Prediction Markets are a tool for collecting group opinion using market principles. The price is usually based on a conversion of an opinion of the percent likely an event is to happen (i.e., the probability), for example there is a 40% change that Candidate X will win the election. The premise is that there is a lot of hidden information that can be sharable but there are not mechanisms to share it because information-holders either cannot or do not wish to share it (for example that a current work team project may not finish on time). Some research has found that prediction markets may beat polls or experts in terms of forecast accuracy [1].

Figure 1. Prediction Market Example

To aggregate hidden organizational opinion and expertise, Prediction Markets are in use at 100-200 large US organizations as of June 2014: Paypal, HP, BestBuy, Electronic Arts, Boeing, Amazon, Harvard, GM, Hallmark, P&G, Ford, Microsoft, Chevron, Lockheed Martin, CNN, Adobe, American Express, and Bosch. There are several enterprise Prediction Market vendors for enterprise idea management: Consensus Point, Inkling, Spigit/Crowdcast, Bright Idea, and Qmarkets. The main applications of Enterprise Prediction Markets are revenue forecasting, demand planning, and capital budgeting; innovation life cycle management (rate, filter, and prioritize ideas), and project management and risk management.

There are Enterprise Prediction Markets and also Consumer Prediction Markets for event prediction such as politics: election results; economics: box office receipts, product sales; and health: pandemic prediction. Some of the leading markets are Iowa Electronic Markets (and Iowa Electronic Health Markets), the Hollywood Stock Exchange (film box office, TV shows, celebrities), simExchange (gaming: video game consoles, video game launches), CROWDPARK (general), and LongBets (futurist). A new market, SciCast, has recently launched for detailed science and technology predictions.

Markets are typically real-money, reputation-based, or anonymous. In the wake of Intrade’s regulation-forced closure, Bitcoin Prediction Markets are enjoying a surge of trading activity; markets like Predictious, Fairlay, and Bitcoin Bull Bear.

More Information: Prediction Markets @ Singularity University

[1] Trepte, K. et al. Forecasting consumer products using prediction markets. MIT. 2009.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Cognitive Enhancement Memory Management: Retrieval and Blocking

One familiar notion of cognitive enhancement is prescription drugs that boost focus and concentration: ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications like Modafinil, Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, and Methylin [1], and amphetamines like Adderall, Dexedrine, Benzedrine, Methedrine, Preludin, and Dexamyl [1-3]. These drugs are controversial as while there is some documented benefit, there is also a recovery period (implying that sustained use is not possible), and they are often obtained illegally or for nonmedical use.

What is new in memory enhancement drug development is the possibility of targeting specific neural pathways, like long-term potentiation induction and late-phase memory consolidation [4]. A cholinesterase inhibitor, donepezil, which has shown modest benefits in cognition and behavior in the case of Alzheimer’s disease [5], was also seen to enhance the retention performance of healthy middle-aged pilots following training in a flight simulator [6]. Ampakines are benzamide compounds that augment alertness, sustain attention span, and assist in learning and memory (by depolarizing AMPA receptors to enhance rapid excitatory transmission) [7, 8]. The drug molecule MEM 1414 activates an increase in the production of CREB (the cAMP response element-binding protein) by inhibiting the PDE-4 enzyme, which typically breaks it down. Higher CREB production is good for neural enhancement because it generates other synapse-fortifying proteins [4, 9].

Memory management in cognitive enhancement could also include blocking or erasing unwanted memories such as traumatic memories brought on by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Since even well-established memories require reconsolidation following retrieval, the memory reconsolidation process could be targeted by pharmaceuticals to disrupt or even erase aberrant memories [10]. Critical to memory reconsolidation are the glutamate and b-adrenergic neurotransmitter receptors. These neurotransmitter receptors could be targeted by drug antagonists like scopolamine and propranolol, which bind with these receptors, to induce amnestic effects so that unwanted memories are destabilized on retrieval [11-14].

Summarized from: Boehm, F. Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions. CRC Press, 2013. Ch17.
Full article: Nanomedical Cognitive Enhancement  

[1] Weyandt, L.L., Janusis, G., Wilson, K.G., Verdi, G., Paquin, G., Lopes, J., Varejao, M., and Dussault, C., Nonmedical prescription stimulant use among a sample of college students: Relationship with psychological variables. J. Atten. Disord. 13(3), 284–296, 2009.
[2] Varga, M.D., Adderall abuse on college campuses: A comprehensive literature review. J. Evid. Based Soc. Work 9(3), 293–313, 2012.
[3] Teter, C.J., McCabe, S.E., LaGrange, K., Cranford, J.A., and Boyd, C.J., Illicit use of specific prescription stimulants among college students: Prevalence, motives, and routes of administration. Pharmacotherapy 26(10), 1501–1510, 2006.
[4] Farah, M.J., Illes, J., Cook-Deegan, R., Gardner, H., Kandel, E., King, P., Parens, E., Sahakian, B., and Wolpe, P.R., Neurocognitive enhancement: What can we do and what should we do? Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 5(5), 421–425, 2004.
[5] Steele LS, Glazier RH (April 1999). "Is donepezil effective for treating Alzheimer's disease?". Can Fam Physician 45: 917–9. PMC 2328349. PMID 10216789.
[6] Yesavage, J.A., Mumenthaler, M.S., Taylor, J.L., Friedman, L., O’Hara, R., Sheikh, J., Tinklenberg, J., and Whitehouse, P.J., Donepezil and flight simulator performance: Effects on retention of complex skills. Neurology 59(1), 123–125, 2002.
[7] Chang, P.K., Verbich, D., and McKinney, R.A., AMPA receptors as drug targets in neurological disease—Advantages, caveats, and future outlook. Eur. J. Neurosci. 35(12), 1908–1916, 2012.
[8] Arai, A.C. and Kessler, M., Pharmacology of ampakine modulators: From AMPA receptors to synapses and behavior. Curr. Drug Targets 8(5), 583–602, 2007.
[9] Solomon, L.D., The Quest for Human Longevity: Science, Business, and Public Policy. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, 2006, 197pp.
[10] Milton, A.L. and Everitt, B.J., The psychological and neurochemical mechanisms of drug memory reconsolidation: Implications for the treatment of addiction. Eur. J. Neurosci. 31(12), 2308–2319, 2010.
[11] Debiec, J. and LeDoux, J.E., Disruption of reconsolidation but not consolidation of auditory fear conditioning by noradrenergic blockade in the amygdala. Neuroscience 129, 267–272, 2004.
[12] Lee, J.L.C., Milton, A.L., and Everitt, B.J., Reconsolidation and extinction of conditioned fear: Inhibition and potentiation. J. Neurosci. 26, 10051–10056, 2006.
[13] Ferry, B., Roozendaal, B., and McGaugh, J.L., Role of norepinephrine in mediating stress hormone regulation of long-term memory storage: A critical involvement of the amygdala. Biol. Psychiatry 46, 1140–1152, 1999.
[14] Sara, S.J., Roullet, P., and Przybyslawski, J., Consolidation of memory for odor-reward association: á-adrenergic receptor involvement in the late phase. Learn. Mem. 6, 88–96, 1999.