The Future is Discovery, not Just Search

April 25 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future
Category: Social Media   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

Cross-posted from 20bits

Let’s start with a picture from Radar NetworksCEO Nova Spivack:

Erick Schonfeld, asking Is Keyword Search About to Hit its Breaking Point?, talks about Spivack’s view of the future of the web. According to him it lies ever-more-refined search technologies such as semantic search, natural language search, and artificial intelligence. A quote:

Keyword search engines return haystacks, but what we really are looking for are the needles . The problem with keyword search such as Google’s approach is that only highly cited pages make it into the top results. You get a huge pile of results, but the page you want—the “needle” you are looking for—may not be highly cited by other pages and so it does not appear on the first page. This is because keyword search engines don’t understand your question, they just find pages that match the words in your question.

Spivack wants to “do for data what the Web did for documents” and develop a standard, uniform system for semantic metadata. It’s the classic “dumb software, smart data” idea. Tagging works to a degree, but it’s neither uniform nor standard — the same tag can mean two different things for two different people, and two different tags can mean the same thing.

That said, the premise underpinning Spivack’s whole argument is that search will is the correct interface when faced with a world of exponentially-increasing information. His version of the future says, “Keyword search will become increasingly inefficient and the solution is to develop semantically-aware systems that search based on meaning, rather than content.” (cont.)

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Nova Spivack on the Future of Twine and the Intelligent Web

August 25 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future
Category: Social Media   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Twine creator and CEO Nova Spivack wants to change the world by enabling a much, much smarter Web. In the meantime, as Twine enters its public beta phase, he’s more than happy to help guide Web-based content through the baby-steps of back-end development, simultaneously allowing millions of users to “leverage collective intelligence to better share and discover information around their interests on the Web.” If indeed Spivack makes the right moves and successfully generates the requisite critical mass, his company Radar Networks could grow to a billion $+ valuation inside a few years, rising up to compete against the likes of Google in the contextual advertising market.

In this exclusive interview with Spivack (full transcript available at bottom) MemeBox’s Venessa Posavec asked some tough and comprehensive questions about Spivack’s vision of the semantic web, the near-term future of Twine, and the future of what Spivack calls the Intelligent web.

Some choice excerpts include:

On the future of the semantic web:

“It is about fundamentally upgrading the quality of the data on the Web.”

The Intelligent Web “is rather far off in the future still, in 2020 and beyond.”

On the trajectory of Twine:

“We’re seeing people spend extraordinary amounts of time on Twine, because interest networks are so sticky. When people can congregate efficiently and meaningfully around shared interests, amazing things can happen. This is what we are building, ultimately – a platform for networks that are about what you know – not who you know.”

“Our agenda for the next 12 months is to move from our present invite-only beta to an app that is ready for ‘prime-time’ use by mainstream consumers. This is mainly accomplished by working on usability. We need to make Twine easier for ordinary consumers to quickly understand and use. We also have a large number of improvements and new features to add. We hope to launch next major version in October 2008.”

“It is possible that Twine will become your primary touch-point for content on the Web, in part because of the intelligence that we can bring to the table. But we mostly think of Twine as a hub of collective intelligence, and Twine plays nice with e-mail, browsers, bookmarking tools, RSS, wiki-style editing, video, photographs, etc.”

On Twine as a potential Google killer:

“[B]ecause intelligent applications like Twine can understand context and even make inferences from that context, they can deliver a whole new kind of advertising that provides real value, in the context of what a given user is actually interested in.”

Here’s the full transcript of the fascinating and revelaing interview:

MemeBox: What is the macro significance of a semantically organized web?

Nova Spivack: The Semantic Web is essentially made up of a set of technologies designed to help the Web to become a place where information exists in a format that software applications can easily understand. By making information more accessible, software will in turn become increasingly able to understand and organize that information automatically and intelligently.

In other words, the Web, and the software that runs on top of it, will become smarter, and more intelligent. Not as smart as humans perhaps, but much smarter than, say, your word processor is today.

MemeBox: What are some potential applications of the semantic web?

Nova Spivack: I think that collective intelligence is the main thing that the Semantic Web is enabling, and Twine is a great example of a tool that is moving us towards a new paradigm that we’re calling “interest networking.”

Twine helps people keep up with what matters to them, by teaming up to organize, share, and track information with networks of people who share their interests. Twine is like a social network for sharing, organizing and finding knowledge. It helps individuals and groups achieve smarter, more productive, collective intelligence. This is interest networking. It is networking with other like-minded users around the topics that you care most about.

As background, a “Twine” is a place for your interests. It’s the next step beyond a file server, wiki, personal home page, or database. Users can create a Twine for any group, team or community. Twines can be private and personal, private for groups, or public for groups and communities.

The most popular Twines right now represent an array of interests, with names like Foodie Extraordinaire, Alternative Medicine, The Art of Filmmaking, Science Fiction Depot, Oddities Around The World, Sustainable Living, Humor and so on. The #1 most popular Twine is just called “Cool,” actually – it has 1,500 members who all contribute the coolest stuff they find around the Web. It’s easy to get lost in “Cool” for hours.

But that’s just the public Twines. There are private Twines for conferences, school groups, corporate teams, families, and much more. And there are thousands of Twines for more esoteric interests. In fact the smaller Twines are some of our more interesting use cases – there are only so many people in the world who are intensely interested in British cartoonists, but they are all finding each other using Twine.

The “intelligent” part of Twine is what it does under the hood, so to speak – automatically classifying and labeling documents, web pages, e-mails, photos, videos, etc. and connecting the relevant pieces to each other like a trail of breadcrumbs.

Twine also looks at individual users’ interests, understands their preferences without ever having to ask, and suggests new Twines to join, or other members of the community to connect with. Some of my favorite user stories are about two people connecting and forming a friendship about a shared interest that they never could have otherwise known they had in common.

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Spivack theorizes on Humans becoming more Specialized, like Ants

October 25 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Social Issues   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5 Hot

Nova Spivack gave an interesting presentation on differing levels of intelligence and the Singularity. But what caught my attention was his scenario where humans evolve into specialized groups in order to make the whole work better.

If you look at nature, you see groups like bees or ants having specialized tasks that they’re designed for. Ring any bells?

And no, I’m not that clever, Spivack himself made the Borg reference.

The idea of specialized humans is sometimes hard for people to talk about. In order to be “PC” people constantly say all people have the same ability, contrary to evidence otherwise in both intelligence and physical ability. Are we going to face this fact and have specialized groups?

Most people see the Singularity as an event in the future where life will be a lot better, interesting to think that your future perfect life may include doing one task very well over and over again.

Nova Spivack's "Web as World" Observation Leads Us Further Down the Rabbit Hole

September 23 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: The Web   Year: General   Rating: 4

Summary: Spivack’s observation that the web is saturating the world (rather than just enabling a super fast web that the world and humans can enter) reinforces the idea that our system as a whole is amplifying its total intelligence and capabilities, rather than just supporting the digitization and “upload” of everything. It’s a basic, yet profound distinction that fundamentally changes how we expect the future to unfold.

Nova Spivack has posted some interesting thoughts up on his personal Twine, noting that “The Web is starting to spread outside of what we think of as ‘the Web’ and into ‘the World.’” He points out that “the digital world is going physical”, an idea that opens up an array of new futures previously not imagined by thinkers who’ve largely focused on digitization and inner space as the inevitable human destiny. Spivack concludes that “Beyond just a Global Brain, we are really building a Global Body.”

This thinking resonates with me because it moves away from a human-centric view of the future (digitization is good because we can live forever) in favor of a more systems-centric explanation (the system as a whole is getting smarter for its own reasons). It also makes sense in the context of an ongoing discussion I’ve been having with good friend and EvoDevo systems thinker John Smart about the direct relationship between A) our collective drive to tunnel toward Inner Space (nanotech, chemistry, energy efficiency, etc.) and B) our drive to expand into Outer Space (exploration, space travel, universe mapping, manufacturing, resource discovery).

An increasingly intelligent, self-orgainzing web that furthers growth of both the Global Brain, a concept originally advanced by Francis Heylighen in 1995, and what Spivack calls the Global Body, seems like the necessary tissue connecting our Inner Space and Outer Space focused appendages. In other words, the web that Spivack observes is not only concerned with creating better simulations, but also with expanding reach and bettering physical capabilities.

This jives with the idea that the point of the game of life, including the human-created web, is to ensure the survival of our global system via knowledge gathering and expansion, and less with the species-centric view that the future is solely about digitizing ourselves and escaping our biological chains. If in fact we are living in a system that purposely or automagically (to borrow a term from another futurist colleague, Jerry Paffendorf) seeks to increase control over its perceived environment (COPE) in order to ensure survival and expansion, then the creation of a web that serves this system, rather than just its human components, seems perfectly rational.

From this perspective, a merger between the web and physical world makes a lot of sense as it accelerates the input, sorting and output of information, resulting in increased system quantification and knowledge generation. In other words, a world-as-web + web-as-world boosts both our collective intelligence and capabilities.

Of course, this sort of thinking steadily pulls us down the rabbit hole to a place where the physical world can be viewed as web and the web as increasingly physical. But, then again, we’re due for some serious paradigm shifts, aren’t we?

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Nova Spivack: We Are Evolving Collective Intelligence Through the Web (SS08 Take-Aways)

October 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Information   Year: 2008   Rating: 4

Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks and creator of Twine, has recently written about the notion of a Global Body that compliments the Global Brain.

This morning at the Singularity Summit, he posed the question, “Will the Global Brain have its own mind?”

Here are some of my take-aways from his excellent presentation (memebox interview forthcoming):

“Are we actually space-time machines?”

“Intelligence will spread throughout the universe. ... The cosmos is an intelligence spreading machine.”

“The distinction between actual and virtual will just go away. ... It won’t be Second Life anymore, it will just be First Life.”

“We don’t really know how the body and mind will change.”

Buys Vinge’s assertion of “Superhuman intelligence in 30 years.”

Four scenarios through which super-human intelligence can occur:

- computers themselves become awake
- large computer networks wake up (Skynet)
- interfaces become so connected that effectively each individual awakens
- human intellect is enhanced by biological and other means

So, how to give a group a sense of itself, bring self-consciousness to a group?

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Nova Spivack: "Web OS" Midde-Ware Will Transform the Cloud Into Your Personal Distributed Desktop

October 27 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Information   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

To facilitate more efficient interaction with data and services available in the emerging web Cloud, we should build a Web OS or “middle-ware layer developers can write applications to”, says Twine creator Nova Spivack. Ideally, such a layer would be “brand agnostic” and serve as a neutral “marketplace for finding and orchestrating [all] services rather than one company’s services.”

“The middle-ware should be able to handle this without making me subscribe to anyone’s proprietary API,” paints Spivack, “So if I say, ‘I need to store something,’ the middle-ware layer, this Web OS, should say ‘Hmm, where do I get the best deal on storage right now?’ Maybe it’s Amazon, maybe it’s Google, maybe it’s another location.’”

Clearly such middle-ware would save time and generate other efficiencies, especially in the context of exponential information growth, creating “a major commercial opportunity” for the right developer, as Spivack points out.

Here’s the full Web OS scenario as presented by Spivack:

So the question then becomes, which organization will end up building out such a structure?

The usual suspects Google and Microsoft immediately pop into mind. Both have made big browser plays and understand the significance of The Cloud and human attention.

But perhaps it will prove too large or complex an effort or present a fundamental conflict of interest for such companies, in which case open-source efforts facilitated by the likes of the Mozilla Foundation may prove most effective.

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Spivack & Kelly Pushing Tech / Consciousness Boundaries, But How Deep is the Rabbit Hole?

November 05 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 4 Hot

“The web is going to wake up. It is already awake because we are awake and we are a part of it.” – Nova Spivack, Singularity Summit 2008

With their recent blogologue concerning the evolution of consciousness, Kevin Kelly of Wired fame and Nova Spivack, creator of Twine, are spearheading a shift away from the commonly held view of a future in which Strong AI grows in a box, to one in which the Cloud or the Planet is the box. Both are striving to broaden the context in which terms like technology, information, intelligence, communication and consciousness are defined. This is a very necessary step as most of the recent theory and development has been dominated by reductionist AI and technology thinkers who seem to view such phenomena in a vacuum.

Clearly, technology, information, intelligence and consciousness (TIICC) do not exist in a vacuum. In his latest post, Kelly expands his definition of the emerging Technium to include the concept of meta-system transition (advanced by Turchin and Heylighen) that Spivack advocates. Thus, both are now in agreement that TIICC are dependent on the system, which is a very positive development, but also brings them out onto a slippery memeslope.

Because there is no such thing as a closed system (as Godel taught us), it is near-impossible, or perhaps fundamentally impossible, to create functional, highly-useful definitions of TIICC. Kelly and Spivack both concur with this reality:

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Nova Spivack Discusses the Evolution of Collective Intelligence (MemeBox Exclusive Video)

October 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Information   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

Twine creator Nova Spivack believes we are evolving collective consciousness through the web. Here’s a summary of his ruminations on the subject (shot immediately following his thought-provoking presentation at SS08 this morning):