Is Google The Ultimate Context Miner, Refiner, and Producer?

August 08 2008 / by justinelee / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: General   Rating: 4

This past June, Google-owned YouTube launched a new way to search for political videos on its YouChoose page:

Using speech recognition technology, the new function allows users to search for videos based on keywords that are spoken in the video. The resulting videos include yellow markers on the play bar to indicate where the keyword is uttered inviting the user to jump to that spot in the video. And if the user mouses over the highlighted area, a small overlay pops up with the phrase that includes the keyword, to provide some context.

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The Growing Impact of Towns and Cities in Google Earth

July 28 2008 / by justinelee / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: General   Rating: 3

In its effort to catalog and effectively share the world’s information, Google continues to improve its dynamic representation of earth and has now extended its reach to cities and towns.

The first time I experienced Google Earth, I was pretty impressed. Accessing satellite information, I was able to navigate most any location on the planet that I was interested in, from a bird’s eye view. Of course the first thing I did was check out my street, the homes of my past, and landmarks around my town.

Next I was introduced to Street View, a visualization composed of photos taken from automobiles that allows full 3D street navigation. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when Street View was at last integrated with Google Maps, that I could travel down my street take a glance at my house and my car parked neatly on the curb. That was really cool to me. I found myself wondering where I was the time the photos was taken, and being thankful they hadn’t caught me outside my house in an early morning stupor.

After some light research I found that Google isn’t just concerned with satisfying my curiosity. It has found ways to make money with this technology while expanding its functionality for important, decision-making parties.

Google introducing advanced versions of the platform with Google Earth Pro ($400/year), a collaborative tool for commercial and professional use and Google Earth Plus ($20/year) for everyday map enthusiasts. It also provides non-profit organizations with Earth Outreach, a program that allows organizations to map their projects to help engage users.

In March 2008, Google Earth introduced Cities in 3D which is unsurprisingly a complete 3D visualization of numerous cities. To contribute to this effort, users can submit and share renditions of structures and buildings using Google’s SketchUp. The program primarily relies on city governments to submit their 3D information electronically (for free) and invites them to review the benefits.

The benefits for local governments seem rather extensive. They include: engaging the public in planning, fostering economic development, boosting tourism, simplifying navigation analysis, enhancing facilities management, supporting security and crime prevention, and facilitating emergency management.

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How Exactly Will Our System Get Smarter?

July 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5

A favorite debate topic for many futurists, humanists, advanced defense theorists, sci-fi authors and Future Bloggers is the nature of future terrestrial intelligence increase. As change accelerates, how how exactly will we and/or the system around us get smarter?

The most popular scenario by far is Artificial General Intelligence , aka AI that equals or surpasses that of humanity, probably because it is the most immediately relatable and due to the fact that so much money is being poured into AGI research. In fact, some researchers are predicting a breakthrough in the field in just 5-10 years.

But there are a variety of other scenarios that could either outcompete this paradigm or conspire with it to accelerate intelligence in our system. These include human-based, alien-based, deeply systemic, or even exo-systemic possibilities.

Applying your particular brand of intelligence, which of the following do you think is the most optimal path to intelligence increase in the acceleration era? (Survey at end of post)

AGI: Human-generated machine intelligence such as in the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and A.I..

Individual Intelligence Amplification: Individual humans that grow vastly smarter due to hard, biological and/or soft cognitive upgrades, such as Bean in Ender’s Game.

Social Intelligence Amplification: A group or humanity as a whole collectively grows smarter, thus taking on the stewardship role for our Earth and species.

Biological Intelligence Amplification: One, more or all of the other species on Earth evolve or emerge, aided or automatically, the foremost intelligence on the planet. This could be viewed as a Gaiian awakening.

Alien Contact: Through efforts like SETI or those of the aliens themselves, we come into contact with some extra-terrestrial intelligence based in our universe that either stewards us or gives us a nice boost, a la the Vulcans in Star Trek, although this would likely be considerably more extreme.

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Identity chips will soon track everything -- including you

June 27 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Information   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips will soon be used in stores at point-of-sale checkout to replace cashiers. Sensors can detect purchases and automatically charge your ATM or credit card – or direct you to a cash machine. Merchants eliminate cashiers, and in our competitive world, some of the savings gets passed on to customers in lower prices.

Wal-Mart recently ordered 100 of its suppliers to place RFID tags on pallets and cases. They plan to start with inventory control, and evolve into this new technology over the coming years. Target, Home Depot, Kroger, Safeway, and most other stores are expected to follow soon.

This revolutionary identification system also gives merchants more security. If a certain Beverly Hills store had installed RFID tags, a famous actress would not have been caught shoplifting. Sensors would have detected her purchases as she walked out the door, and automatically charged her credit card – no harm no foul.

RFID chips can also be implanted in our body. Whether it’s your little one’s first day walking home from the bus stop alone, or the millionth time she’s wandered too far from the house, a chip under her collarbone reports her exact location. You chart her every move. This allows her to become more independent, and it gives you greater peace of mind.

This is not as futuristic as it sounds. Driven by 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security, in its US-VISIT program, is testing biometrics in a $15 billion attempt to build a “virtual border” around the country. This high-priority project will use facial recognition, fingerprint, hand geometry, and iris and voice recognition in an attempt to separate bad guys from good guys.

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Will Scientific Modelling Soon Be Obsolete?

June 25 2008 / by juldrich / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Biotechnology   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net

Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired, has written an excellent article entitled “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes Scientific Method Obsolete” in which he convincingly argues that massive amounts of data, in combination with sophisticated algorithms and super powerful computers, offers mankind a whole new way of understanding the world.

Anderson believes that our technological tools have now progressed to the point where the “old way” of doing science – hypothesize, model and test – is becoming obsolete. In its place, a new paradigm is now emerging whereby scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs simply allow statistical algorithms to find patterns where science cannot.

If Anderson is correct – and I believe he very well could be – this will take science in a whole new direction. In short, instead of modeling and waiting to find out if hypotheses are valid the scientific community can instead rely on intelligent algorithms to do the heavy lifting.

Before this vision can be achieved, however, it will require a great many brilliant scientists to unlearn the idea that their “model-based” method of trying to make sense of today’s increasingly complex world is the only way to search for new meaning. (cont.)

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Time to Improve on Accidental Science

June 17 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

In the past, many scientific discoveries and technological solutions have come from a non related source of information. From Archimedes’ realisation in the bath, to the accidental discovery of penicillin, history is full of occasions where going outside the subject in question has provided answers to scientific problems. When you really think about it, in many ways humankind, technology, and scientific understanding have been propelled forward, significantly, by luck alone.

Many great individuals have been personally responsible for some of the most important discoveries of all time. Often, their discoveries were the result of sharing information with a friend or colleague from another field, who was able to introduce a new angle to the problem, opening up the eyes of both parties to new possibilities. Or, someone will change their field, bringing knowledge and experience from a previous career into the new subject and then approaching problems from a unique perspective. Today’s prime example of this is Aubrey DeGrey’s computing background giving a new perspective to the concept of aging.

Many major breakthroughs have been created this way, by going outside the realms of the problem itself, drawing upon the knowledge of something else to find a solution. It’s often something that is not done purposefully, so, more often than not, it doesn’t happen. Chemists might plug away at a problem for years, not realising that the answer lies in zoology. The solutions to nanotechnology might lie in quantum physics, or perhaps just mathematics. There are so many possible avenues that perhaps there are problems that we will never solve, due to us never taking the correct path to their discovery.

This is obviously not acceptable. Relying on chance meetings of elites from different fields coming up with solutions will likely keep human progress to the speed of the 1800s, whilst working on problems for which solutions already exist is a ridiculous waste of time, especially if you want to stay ahead of Actuarial Escape Velocity. Thankfully, the internet brings a lot of information together and keeps the relevant people informed on progress. With the advent of huge, web based amateur communities and special interest groups, much news and information is shared amongst those with common goals, helping the spread of information. (cont.)

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How Smart Will Humans Be in 2020?

June 17 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: 2020   Rating: 5 Hot

How smart will humans become as change accelerates through 2020?

Futurists and sci-fi authors often present scenarios in which humans interact with discrete artificial intelligence (like a robot or software program that talks to us), but far less frequently offer visions of runaway human intelligence enhancement (people made smarter by advances in communication, science & technology) and the resulting cultural and behavioral changes. The most interesting of these I’ve encountered include the rapid-time expanding-shrinking problem-solving networks in Vinge’s Rainbows End, Stephenson’s Metaverse idea, Hesse’s Glass Bead Game concept, Cascio’s participatory Panopticon, the increasingly smart mobs envisioned by Howard Rheingold, some of examples listed in the ASF’s Metaverse Roadmap, and what Richard Florida calls The Rise of the Creative Class . But though each of these are important visions in their own right, I remain a bit surprised at the overall lack of speculation re: what it might be like for humans to gradually bootstrap their intelligence over the coming years.

Given the deluge of brain-enhancing, capability-extending new technologies and ideas soon to be made widely available and affordable, it’d be great to see more thinkers, writers, and bloggers venture into the territory of plausible near-term culture and Intelligence Amplification (IA). Supported by a large body of consistent, powerful growth trends and near-term predictions (check them out on the Future Scanner), a wide range of social scenarios could be generated, many of which would be interesting, entertaining and ultimately valuable to people working to navigate the future (aka, everyone). In particular, I’d love to see/read simulations in which the most plausible near-term intelligence enhancing technologies and software are combined into believable slice-of-life vignettes.

What follows is a list of some powerful trends and technologies (some broad, some specific, many related to information and communication) that forward-thinkers might consider when developing scenarios for how human culture and social cognition will change as we approach 2020:

Drivers of Near-Term Intelligence Growth

WIDENING BANDWIDTH: Faster internet connections, pervasive WiFi – perhaps syndicated through people’s mobile devices.

GROWING GLOBAL INFORMATION: The amount of preserved digital data is growing exponentially as we capture more information about everything around us.

EVOLVING SOCIAL MEDIA: New media structures on a wider and more fluid web are evolving to better organize and process data. Portals like Wikipedia, Digg, Facebook, Medium, Twitter, FriendFeed, and Predictify are just the first in a long wave of innovation that promises to convert massive information into knowledge more efficiently.

VIDEO-to-VIDEO CHAT: Expect most cell phones to enable video-to-video chat by 2012 or so. (cont.)

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David Houle's Three Forces of the Shift Age

June 12 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Economics   Year: General   Rating: 2

I’ve been digging futurist David Houle’s new short video collection on YouTube, mostly because he succeeds at succinctly describing a variety of more or less complex forces. These are useful clips that I can show folks like my mom to help convey certain tricky concepts, much like the great acceleration primer that Jack Uldrich recently posted.

In particular, I found compelling Houle’s three 1-minute videos on the forces driving what he calls the Shift Age. Not only do they serve as a basic roadmap to the change ahead of us, they nicely convey the transformation of consciousness that will accompany this shift.

Houle’s first video describes a trend that he labels the “Flow to Global” which focuses on the notion that we are “beginning to develop a global conscience” and that “everything is reorganizing around global[ism]”.


Houle’s second post addresses the “Flow to the Individual”, an increase in choice that makes us “much more powerful as individuals than at any other time in human history”.

(cont.)

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Accelerating Deception and Memetic Evolution

June 11 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Web   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

Jamais Cascio at Open the Future is on to something big with a new concept he calls the Participatory Decepticon, the yang to the yin that is the Participatory Panopticon. The general idea is that we’re beginning to see instances of modified/corrupted video content that can greatly benefit the deceiver via a spike of monetizable attention.

“Such a deception wouldn’t stand for very long, but would almost certainly last long enough set off a wave of furious blog posts and mainstream media attention,” argues Cascio, citing political videos as an example.

Having been burned by fake news like the iphone face-to-face talk photos and having seen many a critical thinker hoodwinked by April Fool’s blog posts I certainly agree that this Decepticon is in its nascency. The corruption, camoflaging, variation seems to indicate a new type of evolutionary internet-based memetic/temetic/content mechanism at work. The fact that deliberate content “mutation” has economic upside, as seen in the increase of April Fool’s spoofs, indicates that more brains will take advantage of the opportunity, especially as the value of human attention continues to rise. Thus, certain deceptive content packets will replicate and proliferate much more quickly thanks to the fluid content economy enable by the internet .

One might call this “accelerating deception”, which seems like a logical counterpart to the exponential information growth.

If we view memes and temes as more or less alive, as Susan Blackmore (one of the most important minds in information theory right now) argues and I tend to concur, then what’s happening is these little virtual organisms (in concert with humans, for now) are developing new survival and reproduction strategies.

At the same time, humans are benefiting from the increasingly rapid release of content variations. – Yes, there is a silver lining. (cont.)

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The Singularity Frankenstein

June 09 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Media   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

When exploring the possible futures ahead of us one sooner or later encounters The Singularity memeplex, a concept with multiple meanings that people now generally associate with exponentialist Ray Kurzweil’s definition, “technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history”. He and others argue this will come about as the result of human-trumping or super-human-enabling artificial intelligence that fundamentally transforms our system and ourselves.

While the notion of a big-ass capital-S singularity is a very important concept, especially for future interested noobs attempting to comprehend the general ramifications of runaway technology growth, I agree with the likes of Eliezer Yudkowsky that it’s become a most un-scientific mash-up of several different schools of little-s singularity thought, something he appropriately calls “Singularity paste”.

The result is a huggable yet identity-torn memetic Frankenstein far more reminiscent of spirituality structures than of the scientific method which fundamentally violates the cardinal commandment of rigorous futures studies: Thou shalt not worship one single future, but the myriad possible futures ahead of us. (Note the plural. There’s solid reasoning behind it.)

Thus, it should come as absolutely no surprise when blogs like Wired Science label the Singularity a faith, thinkers such as Ted Modis call it a myth, and sci-fi authors including Warren Ellis dub it a religion. Such competent voices are being forced into adopting a contrary position to a Big-S singularity because it’s difficult for them to find the logical middle ground that they would naturally occupy. (cont.)

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John Naisbitt Hates the "Change" Meme

June 06 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

John Naisbitt, author of the popular MegaTrends (1982) and MegaTrends 2000 (1990), hates the word “change”.

“Because we are so bombarded by information about change we think that everything is changing, which is not true,” argues Naisbitt.

He supports this sentiment/analysis by arguing that “we human beings use the internet to do what we’ve always done” and that the underlying market forces driving human behavior have not fundamentally changed in at least 40 years that only “superficial” changes are occurring.

Check out the video here:

While I do agree that market behavior, aka the invisible hand, is a general constant (which we generally underestimate or forget about) because it seems to be a fundamental law of life systems here on Earth, having been around since the first amoeba was brought to life in the water vapor, hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane soup, I find Naisbitt’s argument that the change seen in the last 40 years, the change we’re experiencing, and the change we’ll see in the near-future is nothing but trivial, a bit naive and curmudgeonly. (cont.)

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The Future of Social Media is Not All Open

June 03 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Social Media   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

Notorious VC Fred Wilson has strong opinions about the future of social media.

“I believe that we are headed to a world in which everyone will share their lives with the rest of the world via the Internet. That is social media. It’s a huge movement and we are at the start of it,” he recently proclaimed on his blog.

Over the years I’ve heard many futurists express similar sentiments about the direction of our species, arguing that the benefits of ubiquitous life-streaming, transparency, and the sharing of all information are so powerful that they will trump people’s reluctance to open up their lives to the rest of the world. While I certainly agree that we are probably at the start of a whole open information movement and that pervasive sharing is a useful trend on which to base forward-looking extrapolations, I nevertheless find it highly unlikely that ALL people will choose to participate, especially over the next 20 years.

Considering that we co-exist in a complex environment in which different people with very different personalities, cultures and behaviors each compete for resources and control, betting on such a simple future seems to leave a great many other futures out of the mix. (cont.)

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