interesting sightings at accelerating change 2004

buddy buzz, combining mobile speed reading with posse-style recommendations. it’s principal BJ Fogg has some scary ideas about persuasive technologies that he calls captology.
alicebot is the leading bot technology, with an open source community behind it’s aiml, the Artificial Intelligence Markup Language, which is the markup language for the alice bot. seems obvious to try to apply wikipedia lessons to the nurturing of it’s body of knowledge.
digital space, a commons in cyberspace which tries to bootstrap old and new organizational models using the tools cyberspace offers.

gordon bell on mylifebits

gordon is talking about the 1TB life. (side remark: i get google ads for a 1TB drive at $900). 1 TB gives you 65+ years of 100 emails a day, 100 web pages, 10 photos a day, 8 hours of audio, etc. why not store it? mylifebits is about capturing this information in a database. You need the ACID properties of a database to manage this information. “mylifebits is about the automatic creation of metadata for rich media”. gordon talks of the need for accurate speech recognition and automatic transcription of audio, and image recognition to identify persons on photos. he scanned in all his old papers back from the 60s to the present. his team added more data capture over the years: browser history, phone conversations, GPS information over time.. Killer apps beyond search might be nostalgic screen savers, and eventually of course, the memex. “we feel good about putting our home movies in the database (and never look at them) compared to having them on tape (and never look at them) because we know we could.” they are also looking at caloric intake vs output to plot health state.^
why bother? 1) because we can 2) because we need to deal with digital media 3) it eliminates atoms (hello environment) 4) for business 5) preservation for historians 6) for the frail human mind
the storage structure behind mylifebits shares many of the winfs goals, of course: freedom from the folder structure, rich metadata, useful querying. gordon mentions timelines as a very useful ordering concept. spatial ordering by assigning photos with locations on a map could also become interesting. tagging with dublin core is mentioned, or personal taxonomies. “let me not go into this ontology hole” :) gordon just mentioned deja view, a device attached to your glasses that records the last 30 s in short-term memory and allows you to commit interesting scenes to permanent storage.
“to really do the metadata would take another lifetime. i hired an assistant.” sounds like an outsourcing opportunity to me..
again, alternative writeup here

Cory Ondrejka on the dawn of digital worlds

cory opens with a picture of bush, stating: meatspace is over. let’s move to cyberspace. cory is a lead developer on second life, probably the most advanced cyberworld today. cory asserts that there is a significant market for digital goods: estimated at $1B. The total strength of this trade is about $10B currently, rising sharply. Because digital goods are becoming commoditized, game companies are in an arms race with their user base to develop new content. Most online world force their users to assign copyright to them, which limits trade and economic interest.
“Atoms suck, you end up with traffic problems and Walmart”.
Markets are developing on second life. You can buy skydiving and even skydiving classes from user-run stores. (It turns out that cyber skydiving is great fun). There are also live DJ’s streaming and talking to their users.
Someone created a gun, and contracted out the pieces of it (artwort, physics etc) inside the gaming world. Cory Doctorov wrote a chapter of his latest book by hanging out in second life and interacting with users from around the world. This sets the stage for online collaboration. Currently, the application runs on 500 commodity pcs and covers 32 square kilometers. People are adding twists: Someone added alien abductions, and started abducting people..
Cory recommends the mystery of capital. He asserts that business is moving towards decentralization (quoted from Tom Malone) and that online worlds support this perfectly. The user community started protesting in the game against the game designers by walking around with protest signs in areas with new users. What a great way to put pressure on developers :)
Institutions of meatspace are recreated (only better) in cyberspace: Theaters, Digital cool hunting, exploring business models. Cory predicts that in a few years, their physical simulation will get good enough to be able to design real cars in record time.

templeton vs brin on privacy

brin’s opening statement: both sides want same goals:
suspicion of authority
preservation of human diversity
core question: how do we maintain a decent human society? the four problem solvers of our civilization: markets, courts, science
brin believes that privacy will be closer to home. the future will be like the village of old, the privacy will be in the home sphere “the european privacy activists want to generate oceans of privacy legislation. this is a lousy basis to base your freedom on.” the core issue is accountability. asked about faking names for subway cards: “i game the system too. do what it takes to prevail in the age of ashcroft”.
templeton opening statement:
you don’t care about your privacy until after it has been invaded. You most protect other’s privacy to protect your own. Transparency has virtues: accountability, open flows of information. BUT: Transparency will be subverted. The aristocrats are too strong. For valid reasons of national security, global competition. For fake reasons: national security and global competition. What if encryption gets taxed or outlawed? Enforced transparency has not worked: campaign reform anyone? Where is the fully transparent company? Is criticism the only antidote to error? Never mind Bob Woodwards book, Bush still got reelected. The truth can be buried in the noise. Also, surveillance has never worked completely: Even in China or prison camps. The oppressed always win, at least in the small. But surveillance is always abused.
Brin counteracts: In the transparent society, there is an example of a company with completely open books, visible to all employees. The company is very successful. Another example: There was a release of a toxicological substances. Within a year, the top polluters worked to get their name out of that list. The need for the wallet is gone if you can vet anyone and assess their reputation, just like the village of old, with a handshake, only that this time, your eyeglasses scan the credit history of your counterpart. Also, it is easier, epistemologically, to verify what you know than to verify that someone does not know. “i am an equal opportunity offender.”
for a much more eloquent writeup head over to worldchanging.

steve jurvetson on investment strategy at DFJ

steve jurvetson, managing partner at draper fisher jurvetson, talks about some of the strategies they employ to invest their venture capital.
if too many partners at DFJ think an investment is a good idea, they get worried. they are receiving 30’000 business plans per year and prune it down to about a dozen investments per year. they only invest in unique ideas, to diversify risk. “not what everyone else does”.
there were many more points he made, but he was accelerating while he was talking :) i really hope they put the slides online.

bruce hall on the DARPA grand challenge

background: the army wants autonomous delivery trucks. congress mandates that 1/3 of all vehicles are autonomous by 2015.
they used an over clocked 1.1 GHz TI DSP (fastest DSP on the planet) to build a 3D terrain map 60 times a second. Based on that information, they compute 100 possibilities and pick the most promising one. this computation uses 36 billion pixel operations per second. they hacked into the steering electronics of a standard toyota truck throttle to feed in their vehicle control. these guys used DSPs to avoid stuffing their trunks with computers like the competition did. insurance issues prevented the team from sitting in the truck to debug it: the government disallowed them to sit in the autonomous vehicle during debugging. don’t you love insurance policies :)
their GPS worked to within 6 inches precision. DARPA was concerned with universities not moving autonomous vehicles forward fast enough. “no one of us ever expected to see our vehicles again once they crossed the start line.” they were thinking, as it drove away, “what should we put on the insurance claim form?” for next year, they will abandon the CCD sensors and use an array of 100 lasers that will scan the surroundings 360 degrees and build a terrain map. this will get around the accuracy problems. next time, vehicles that avoid obstacle detection (as everyone did in 2004) will be destroyed by tank blockers, DARPA promised.
the truck used in the challenge sites in the parking lot, bruce drove it out here :)

david brin on the ability of society to cope with change

david is one of my heroes. “the postmodernist belief system is a wrong as that of those that the end of the world is imminent, based on someones acid trip 2000 years ago.” “don’t you always get the criticism you need? god bless america.” he recommends my acquaintances ramez naam’s new book, “better humans”. talks about caloric restrictions. “it wont be as easy for humans.” humans are already methusalems. 3 times as many heart beats as other mammals (rate of heartbeats, mice vs elephants). why aren’t monks reaching 250 years of age? haven’t they been doing caloric restriction for 6000 years? why are we able to be looking towards a golden age in the future now? god asks us a favor “name all the beasts”. taxonomy anyone?
reds vs blue: rural america declared war on urban america. never have so many republican leaders spoken out against the republican runner. “romantics (farmers) do not have to be grateful” every square block of manhattan should adopt a small town in ohio. “no one wants their beliefs to be the result of propaganda.” brin asserts that all hollywood flicks have “sticking it to the man” propaganda.
everyone, reps and dems, are worried about undue accumulation of authority. insatiability: people cannot be made happy by getting what they want. why are all romantic stories (lotr) showing kings, and not democracy in action? democracy is unprecedented.
danger: from “viruses” to viruses once pimple faced teens have access to biotech. do you want to be served by angry teens with access to that stuff at mc donalds? thanks for robots.
shouldn’t we, as the new kid on the block, think twice about sending out messages into space? all SETI people only believe that aliens are benign. human history and nature is filled with predators. a satiated society considers dolphins fellow citizens and goes on to rescue them from the beaches.
exolarium: “put your own alien into the galactic terrarium”

the end of tedious

accelerating change 2004 has begun. last night was simply awesome (writeup over at terry frazier’s). it is not every day that you get to casually hang out with larry page, sergei brin and doug engelbart at the same time. doug and larry had a lot of fun playing with roomba, and we had a discussion with helen greiner from iRobot about upcoming APIs for these autonomous robots. pictures coming :)
this morning i am sitting in a presentation by helen. she is talking about how her field, robotics, benefits from accelerating change. Roomba, their cleaning robot, sold 1M units already, with prime time advertising. their UberVision is “Eliminate dangerous and repetitive tasks.”
she is showing movies from afghanistan, with special ops soldiers sending robots into caves for reconnaissance, and iraq, where robots defeat bombs remotely. one of these robots is about a 100k worth of equipment. she estimates the size of the autonomous robotics industry to be about half a billion dollar today, with their company increasing business fourfold in the past year.
now she is showing a movie with dozens of robots swarming in a room, only communicating with their closest neighbors. it looks surprisingly like an ant nest.
how can robotics tap into accelerating change? moores law of course (helen mentions CCD sensors as an example: what used to require extremely heavy computation for object recognition is now helped by advances in sensor quality). getting OEM involved to grow the market, strategic relationships (irobot developed $200 toy robots, brought it down to $18 by learning from their toy industry partners) she is showing a video of a velociraptor toy, complete with roars. think aibo, dinosaur style. another strategic partnership: john deere. think robotic tractors.
helen predicts that the aging population will drive demands for robotic elder care applications. “building on the beerbot idea, the robot that brings you a beer during the super bowl, build a robot to make sure people are sufficiently hydrated at all times.”
entertainment: a third of furby sales went to adults without kids..

beyond malthus

michael lind asserts that yes, 9bn people can subsist on a lifestyle only the rich can afford today. his article has it all: wildscapes, cowless steaks and hover cars. choice quotes include:

Farm sprawl is a far greater threat to the environment than urban sprawl.
The environmentalists who argue that the affluent countries should revert to the unhealthy peasant diet are wrong.
Those worried that genetic engineering will create biological monsters should be reminded that it already has: just look at the degraded creatures that haunt any farm or ranch.
It makes no sense to counsel individuals and nations to adopt austerity in cases in which there are technological solutions to problems created by technology.