Nova Spivack on the Future of the Semantic Web and Machine Intelligence

April 16 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

A friend forwarded me this awesome short interview of Nova Spivack, founder of EarthWeb in 1994 and Radar Networks in 2003 (which just launched the much-hyped app Twine), in which he discusses predictions for the coming year and the longer term.

Spivack’s prognostications largely focus on widespread adoption of the semantic web. He believes the semantic web will enable the broader web’s evolution to one big database via linked metadata, and that Facebook is slowly becoming a search engine to compete with Google, while Google is becoming a social network to compete with Facebook.

In the longer term, by 2020, “[W]e will move toward an intelligent web where the web moves from a just knowledge base to a kind of global mind – an intelligent entity comprised of billions of pieces of software and billions of people working together to make some new form of intelligence that transcends human or machine intelligence on its own.”

Spivack also points out that he disagrees with Ray Kurzweil on the fundamental roles humans and machines will play in the coming decades.

Learning from the Future with Nova Spivack from Maarten on Vimeo.

(via RapidStage by Maarten Lens-FitzGerald and shout-out to David for forwarding me the awesome video!)

Retro-Active Quantification of All Human-Related Information

April 15 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: The Web   Year: 2015   Rating: 11 Hot

Prediction: Retro-active quantification will be a multi-billion dollar industry by 2015.

Information is power. Humans seek novel information because it is a tool they can use to generate income, live longer and because it satisfies their curiosity drives. As technology makes it easier to mine and piece together more meaningful information, humans will instinctively apply it to better their situation, causing much social turbulence.

One particularly disruptive result of the human information mining instinct will be a booming and widespread retro-active quantification (Retro-Quant) industry. Consuming knowledge that millions of human agents currently expect and desire to remain hidden from their peers, the Retro Quant market will inexorably bring to light precious political, business, family and personal secrets.

The broader your information footprint and the more valuable your information, the more likely it is that this market will seek your information. Unless you can obfuscate the information that you cast off, much like a spy agency does to establish cover, your past behavior and statistics will be subject to Retro-Quant.

Here are ten business scenarios (just off the top of my head) that I expect will contribute to a massive Retro-Quant industry that wants your information:

1. DNA Mapping: Both your current DNA, mitochondrial DNA and RNA and its history will rise in value as biomedical and geneology companies continue to piece together a map of mankind’s genetic information. You or your relatives will be able to sell this info, but new companies will try to get it on the cheap by collecting and correlating samples freely available in the public domain.

2. Lie Detection Based on Video Recordings: Ron Brinkmann notes that face-reading technologies will make it possible to estimate the accuracy of a person’s previously recorded on-video statements. (Jamais Cascio has posted a nice reaction piece.) This will push up the value of high-rez archived interview footage and will allow us to estimate to a high degree of certainty who was actually lying and when.

3. Meme Mapping: Emerging semantic and baby AI technologies will first pull together all of your online data, then cross-analyze it a million different ways to discover your personality type, shopping habits, and longitudinal behavior patterns. These will contribute to a model of your personality genome already begun by consumer data companies.

4. Garbage Picking: Once robots or truly robust 3D scanning and analysis systems get cheap enough, fields of human garbage will all of a sudden turn to gold. How valuable might some undiscovered Paris Hilton video snippets or a steroids tainted syringe with Barry Bonds’ DNA be 10 years from now?

5. Hi-Rez Satellite Imagery: The behavioral data contained in hi-rez aerial photographs of humans is valuable to sociologists, market researchers, product developers, etc. At some point someone will try to sell rich human history collected by satellites. Eventually this information could be opened to the public in response to a quantification uproar. (cont.)

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Future of Shopping - RFID gets under your skin

April 13 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Information   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

You enter the supermarket, grab an electronic shopping cart that recognizes you from your touch, and begin tossing items into pre-opened bags. The monitor on your “smart cart” not only displays each item, its price, and total amount spent; but also subtracts items returned to the shelf. Hold an item in your hand briefly and its description appears on the monitor.

When finished shopping, simply tap a “chipped” finger indicating which credit or debit card to use, or tap thumb for cash pay, which directs you to an automated cash machine – then out the door. On exit, select a security option to deactivate or encrypt all product chips, preventing evildoers from tracking you or your merchandise.

Though this futuristic scenario may still be a few years away, Albertson’s Chicago and Dallas area stores are experimenting with “Shop ‘n Scan”, a wireless scanner shoppers use to ring up groceries as they take them off the shelf. Eventually, Albertson’s wants to integrate this with other services that could one day become the precursor to a scenario like the one described above.

Milwaukee futurist David Zach envisions a bright future for RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification). “Chipped” tickets to local Miller Park sporting events, for example, allows management to recognize customers. Move to a more expensive seat during the game, and the system debits your account for the higher priced seat. (cont.)

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Culture Is Your Operating System : Terence McKenna

April 11 2008 / by Accel Rose
Category: Information   Year: General   Rating: 3 Hot

Here’s a trippy yet provocative YouTube piece by Terrence McKenna, creator of Novelty theory (which predicts the ebb and flow of novelty in the universe as an inherent quality of time), that explores the the notion of culture as an operating system that sits atop the natural human brain, conditioning our experiences (it certainly could do without the spooky music). If more or less accurate, this concept means that we’ll have the ability to transform mindset, or to “download a new operating system”, as we develop the requisite technologies. According to McKenna, that requires “clearing the necessary disk space”. Take a look for yourself, if you dare:

What operating system are you running?

Is culture the human equivalent of an operating system?

or Show Results

Human Evolution & Intelligence StudiesTrending Away From Reductionism

April 07 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Biotechnology   Year: General   Rating: 17 Hot

How strong are your genes? How smart are you? People have traditionally estimated answers to these questions based on genetic surveys and IQ Tests, which can provide valuable answers, but stop well short of factoring in the system(s) surrounding us. This failure to account for environmental effects and group dynamics ultimately caps their utility when it come to the fundamental future-related questions we all seek to answer, like “How probable is it that I/we will survive?” or “How likely is it that I/we will thrive?”

But don’t worry, we’re getting better at quantifying our system all the time. Right now, we may be on the verge of a perspective shift that will help us to fill in a few more gaps and better our systems definitions. Both human intelligence and evolutionary studies appear poised for a due emphasis shift from reductionism (the focus on individual human agents and single brains) to a more holistic (the focus on large groups and the surrounding bio/info/tech structures) approach.

Cognitive theorist Jim Flynn, founder of the Flynn Effect, argues that it is impossible to properly measure intelligence without considering a combination of genetic and environmental effects. He and William Dickens of the Brookings Institution have developed a new model, which demonstrates that environmental factors play a much larger role in the evolution of cognition than previously thought. They theorize about how “industrialization’s rising cognitive demands, at work and leisure, could in fact be the kind of widespread (but not necessarily large), steadily changing environmental factor that could account for the higher IQ scores across so many nations.” (cont.)

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Industry Leaders, Futurists at the WFS's WorldFuture 2008

April 04 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Information   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

Check out this informational video on WorldFuture 2008 hosted by the World Future Society where Conference Chair Nat Irvin II discusses his first WFS conference and what to look forward to at this year’s event.

This year’s conference will be from July 26-28 in Washington, D.C. and promises to be a great event. Faculty and speakers will include Peter Bishop, Joseph Coates, John Smart and a variety of industry leaders and futurists. Download a pdf of the preliminary program here.

Video: Alvin Toffler, Larry Smarr on Legacy of Arthur C. Clarke

April 03 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 2

“Sometimes I feel like the late Dr Frankenstein,” once said celebrated science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Although he was not being entirely serious, Clarke’s powerful predictions did release a sort of monster – one whose powerful memes penetrated many aspects of society and will continue to spiral out of control far into the future.

In the wake of his passing, Clarke’s predictions have been highlighted for their genius and accuracy. The following video, created for Ovation TV, is a great overview of some of his most exalted predictions, which include inventions like the videophone, email, space shuttles, laptop computers and cloning, and explains how he is “responsible for revolutionizing modern communications.” What follows this overview is commentary by renowned experts informing the weight of Clarke’s predictions.

Alvin Toffler, acclaimed futurist and author of Future Shock, said, “The future is not inevitable, it is made, to a considerable degree by human beings, and chance plays a role. Nevertheless, it is possible to see patterns that others haven’t seen. And I think that is certainly something that Arthur Clarke has done.”

Larry Smarr, Director of the National Centre for Super Computing, remarked the rarity and utility of Clarke’s work by saying, “We have incredible numbers of specialists, but how many people do we have that are synthesizing this knowledge and visioning the future?”

“Clark will emerge as one of the greatest visionaries of the 20th century,” added Jeff Greenwald of Wired Magazine – I think it’s safe to say that even among the moderately informed, few would disagree with this statement about Clarke’s legacy.

Redefining Intelligence: MemeBox Interviews Cognitive Historian Dr. James Flynn

April 03 2008 / by memebox
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 8

Dr. James Flynn, the cognitive theorist who discovered the steady rise in human IQ scores over the past 100 years (subsequently dubbed the Flynn Effect), is now advancing a compelling new model of intelligence based on the idea that environment significantly impacts the development of intelligence, aka our ability to solve complex problems.

Attributing IQ gains largely to “the rise of the scientific ethos” and abstract thinking ability, as well as a propensity for genes to “match better environments”, Flynn imagines a future in which technological breakthroughs may better our ability to comprehend complex systems, making us a good deal smarter. However, he also cautiously points out that we could be approaching natural limits to critical thinking ability, as the pursuit of decadence increases and humans become “less willing to do cognitive exercise”.

What follows is an illuminating must-read interview with Flynn about his thoughts on the interplay between intelligence and our rapidly changing environment:

MemeBox: What do you do and how is that related to the future?

James Flynn: I am both a historian of cognition and a moral and political philosopher. The latter relates to the future because clear thinking about the good life and the good society is of eternal value. However,my recent book, What is intelligence? (Cambridge), describes the evolution of the American mind in the 20th century. As usual, only if we understand our immediate past can we see the challenges the future holds. In this case, we can make two predictions about the 21st century with some probability. That developing nations will acquire the habits of mind that developed nations have recently acquired. That the task for developed nations like America is to build an enhanced critical ability on the foundation of the IQ gains of the 20th century.

M: Why is the study of intelligence important to us humans?

JF: That we think it is important is undeniable in that we spend huge sums on education trying to train intelligence to be socially useful. We are correct to do so. Intelligence is essentially the capacity to solve problems and a complex industrial society demands that we have certain habits of mind: that we classify the world in a way that promotes a scientific understanding; that we can use logic to deal with hypothetical problems; and that we can deal with novel problems on the spot.

M: What is the relationship between environment and intelligence? (Environment as in the whole system: biology, information, technology, society, the universe.) To what extent can we distinguish between the two?

JF: Until recently, it was thought we could use twin studies to neatly distinguish the effects of genes and environment on IQ and they said that genes were overwhelmingly potent and environment feeble. Then I began to document these huge IQ gains over time that amounted to some 30 to 50 IQ points during the 20th century in America. These showed environmental factors of enormous potency, but that of course created a paradox: how could the twin studies show environment so feeble while IQ gains showed it to be so potent? (Cambridge), describes the evolution of the American mind in the 20th century. As usual, only if we understand our immediate past can we see the challenges the future holds. In this case, we can make two predictions about the 21st century with some probability. That developing nations will acquire the habits of mind that developed nations have recently acquired. That the task for developed nations like America is to build an enhanced critical ability on the foundation of the IQ gains of the 20th century.

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REVOLUTIONARY! New Google Technology Can Forecast Web Patterns 24-hours in Advance

April 01 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 6

Google Australia has just announced the release of a revolutionary new product called MATE™ (Machine Automated Temporal Extrapolation) that extrapolates web data up to one full day in advance of reality.

According to a statement released by the suddenly resurgent company, “Using MATE’s™ machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques developed in Google’s Sydney offices, [it is possible to] construct elements of the future.”

So how exactly does it work?

Google spiders crawl publicly available web information and our index of historic, cached web content. Using a mashup of numerous factors such as recurrence plots, fuzzy measure analysis, online betting odds and the weather forecast from the iGoogle weather gadget, we can create a sophisticated model of what the internet will look like 24 hours from now.

The implications are frankly astounding. The ability to predict information patterns and the statistical likelihood of certain content is certain to disrupt established patterns of causality underlying markets, social dynamics and even physical and chemical reactions.

In Google’s own words:

We can use this technique to predict almost anything on the web – tomorrow’s share price movements, sports results or news events. Plus, using language regression analysis, Google can even predict the actual wording of blogs and newspaper columns, 24 hours before they’re written!


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Earth + Street View: Google Stays Ahead in the Race to Build a Mirror World

March 31 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2008   Rating: 6

Rumor has it that Google is set to make available its Street View software directly through the already formidable and engaging Earth platform.

Rafe Needleman over at Webware reports: “A source tells me that the Google Earth app will get the Street View feature, currently available only in the browser-based Google Maps service, within a few weeks. What’s not clear is whether this refers to general release or internal testing.”

While this merger may at first glance seem like a novelty, it marks another significant step in Google’s relentless march toward the real-time quantification of the entire planet, aka the creation of a total systems Mirror World .

Check out this demo of Street View if you haven’t already explored the product/service:

As the company strives to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, Street View integration is an inevitable step for Google Earth and is likely to be followed by inter-stitched geo-tagged photos, richer layers of user-generated content, more up-to-date / high-rez satellite imagery, plus whatever additional applications the behemoth can conceive and implement. The stakes are simply to high for the company not continue adding info nodes and value to their budding centralized network.


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Positive vs. Negative Futures

March 26 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 7

When considering the future, is it more important to focus on the extinction risk posed by advancing technology or the massive potential for social advancement enabled by the same?

Futurist blogger and core Lifeboat Foundation member Michael Anissimov argues that calculating and combating existential risk is the moral imperative of our time.

Anissimov writes, “In less than a decade, humanity will likely develop weapons even more deadly than nukes – synthetic life, and eventually, nanorobots and self-improving AI. Even if we consider the likelihood of human extinction in the next century to be small, say 1%, it still merits attention due to the incredibly high stakes involved.”

Jamais Cascio, founder of and a popular futurist blogger in his own right, concurs that existential risk is a most valid concern.

In a recent Nanotechnology Now column he explains, “[S]ome technologies may enable individuals or small groups to carry out attacks, on infrastructure or people, at a scale that would have required the resources of an army in decades past. This is not an outlandish concern by any means; many proponents of the “super-empowered angry individual” (SEAI) concept cite the September 11 attacks as a crude example of how vulnerable modern society can be to these kinds of threats. It’s not hard to imagine what a similar band of terrorists, or groups like Aum Shinrikyo, might try to do with access to molecular manufacturing or advanced bioengineering tools.”

But then Cascio turns things around a bit and points out that “angry people aren’t the only ones who could be empowered by these technologies.”

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The Future of Feeds: Coping With Exponential Information

March 25 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: The Web   Year: General   Rating: 10

As personal broadcasting feeds like Twitter and FriendFeed hit the mainstream, increasingly adding to the information already flowing outward through social networks like MySpace, Facebook, Orkut and LikedIn, as well as regular old-school email, it’s steadily becoming more difficult to make sense of all of the data competing for our attention.

It’s gotten to such a point that Josh Catone over at Read/Write Web yesterday wrote that, “Keeping track of all that activity is starting to feel like watching code in The Matrix.”

In the Matrix, protagonist Neo’s brain was able to discern the meaningful patterns in the code. Catone points out that we now have to take the first baby steps toward such an end:

“The Facebook News Feed only appeared about a year an a half ago, Twitter only gained real attention about a year ago, and FriendFeed and similar services are even newer. However, dealing with information overload is clearly a problem that these services will need to figure out how to address—whichever does it best will likely be a big winner.”

As far as tangible near-term solutions, Catone cites basic algorithmic sorting and a “thumbs-up, thumbs-down” user feedback system, attributed to blogger/consultant Jevon MacDonald, that can establish filters. While these are great first steps, there are a few more techniques and structures that should be added to the list, not to mention a bunch of companies already hard at work prepping them.

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