September 22 2008 / by memebox
Category: Energy Year: General Rating: 6 Hot
What does the future of energy look like in the 21st century? Which elements will remain the same? Which emerging technologies might reinvent how we look at energy? Most importantly, how quickly might things change?
Dear Future Blogger Readers,
In case you haven’t already clicked on the new button in our right-hand column, MemeBox.com, Your Forum for the Future, is proud to point you in the direction of The Energy Roadmap. Edited by energy industry futurist Garry Golden (who we’re thrilled to have officially join the MemeBox team), the new blog/site focuses on the most disruptive ideas poised to transform the energy industry over the next decade and beyond.
“The Energy Roadmap aims to bridge the gap between emerging energy technology and deeply rooted accelerating change,” says MemeBox CEO Jeff Hilford, “Garry’s professional background in energy and futures studies will open up new conversations on the future of energy. We are very pleased to add his unique voice to the mix.”
The sheer scale of the energy industry means that most changes will happen gradually, but the sector is not immune to the power of disruptive technologies, accelerating change and entrepreneurial business models. The Energy Roadmap seeks to place these dynamics into the proper context around some of the biggest ideas shaping the future:
- Role of carbon pricing schemes
- Impact of nanoscale materials science and engineering
- Role of biology in energy production and carbon utilization (e.g. algae biofuels)
- Energy storage and distributed power generation (e.g. micro-power, on-site power generation)
- Role of software and power management systems for ‘smart grids’
- Evolution of the Hydrocarbon Industry (coal, petroleum and natural gas)
- Next generation renewables, nuclear, wave, geothermal, and beyond
- Reducing energy intensity of industrial processes (e.g. chemicals, agriculture, materials manufacturing)
- Growing influence of venture capital and energy entrepreneurs
“Energy has become synonymous with the future,” points out Garry Golden, Editor of The Energy Roadmap, “Global demand for energy will double in only a few decades. Incremental improvements will simply not be enough to meet increasing expectations for clean and abundant energy. And we expect disruptive energy systems to emerge from the convergence of new science, technology and business models. The Energy Roadmap is the first blog explicitly devoted to this structured debate about the future of energy.
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.
June 03 2008 / by memebox
Category: Technology Year: Beyond Rating: 5 Hot
So, will the singularity save us
This was the question we posed at the conclusion of Al
Fin ’s excellent post titled “Can
the Singularity Save Us From Ourselves?“
While just about half of the Future Blogger poll respondents
answered that it’s to early to hazard a guess, it’s interesting to
note that 2/3 of the remaining half believe that, yes, the
singularity will serve as our savior, just as 1/3 think it will
not. In other words, a significant amount of readers believe, as do
futurists like Ray Kurzweil, that
runaway exponential growth of technology, information and
intelligence will trump war and man-made disasters as we venture
further into the acceleration era.
Whether an educated guess, an underlying
faith, or a mix of the two, the sentiment is significant in and
of itself as an indicator of the human reaction to our rapidly
changing environment. However it plays out, it’s clear that the
notion of a positive-outcome singularity continues to pick up
meme-steam, which means that we should expect the idea of the
singularity to continue spreading to brains all across the globe,
especially as cognizance of acceleration increases.
To add your answer to the poll go
Also be sure to check out
Will’s great response to Al Fin’s initial post.
It is notoriously difficult to comprehend the compound growth
potential of exponential forces driving innovations in computing,
nanotech, and solar power, but pro futurist and regular future
Uldrich does a great job explaining this counter-intuitive
phenomenon in his latest book Jump the Curve . Therefore I was
thrilled to come across this short & sweet video synopsis of
exponential potential by the man himself:
By employing comprehensible metaphors and gradually relating
accelerating change to our lives, Jack succinctly and effectively
gets the idea that “the really big change is still ahead of us”
across (no small feat). So if you’re looking for a link to send to
your non Accel-aware buddies, co-workers or relatives, this is
Cross-posted from 20bits
Let’s start with a picture from Radar Networks’ CEO 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.)
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
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
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
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.