By helping us to climb the stairs of abstraction, user-friendly immersive data visualization (ie, geospatial data mapping) is poised to become one of the more significant near-term drivers of accelerating human inteligence and economics. Leading the charge is the small but robust company Green Phosphor, core participants in the progressive and under-recognized Second Life DataViz Group, which is laying down the foundations for Matrix-esque search: "I need guns, lots of guns."
Color me impressed by Green Phosphor's newest release, Glasshouse (demo vid below - don't worry, better graphics are on the way), which converts raw binary data into interactive 3d models. As indicated by the hire of a molecular biologist as Chief Scientist, the company is gearing up to monetize by applying this technology to the medical domains such as genomics and drug discovery.
As CEO Ben Lindquist points out, "The immersive 3d environment creates an entirely new paradigm for business intelligence and process modelling." More specifically, I'd argue that it marks a Meta-System Transition, or topsight leap, in our ability to process then interact with a variety of systems.
Edging out the forthcoming Singularity Movie (not to be confused with this web version), here comes Transcendent Man, a new documentary film that portrays Ray Kurzweil and his vision of a, well, transcendent future for mankind. The film appears to be packed with star-power and will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC this April. The trailer below indicates 1) a focus on universal human transcension (a positive expansion of human perspective, imho), and 2) an attempt at objective framing by allowing in some critical voices, but none of the heavy hitters - appears to be mostly straw men. While I am optimistic the film will represent a socially necessary forward push of philosophical futurism, many futurists and I will ultimately judge this work on its analytical and objective qualities. That said, I'm hoping it delivers and eagerly await its broader release (probably via a cable network).
Some choice excerpts from the producer's press release:
Google's announcement that they are now openly beta-testing "interest-based advertising" confirms that the near-term future of web advertising will involve tapping into your behavior and interest graph.
To date, we have shown ads based mainly on what your interests are at a specific moment. So if you search for [digital camera] on Google, you'll get ads related to digital cameras. ... We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit. Today we are launching "interest-based" advertising as a beta test on our partner sites and on YouTube. These ads will associate categories of interest — say sports, gardening, cars, pets — with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. We may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads.
There is no doubt that this will make for a more interesting and valuable advertising experience, while also boosting Google's bottom line by cutting out advertising inefficiencies. It is also clear that allowing Google to pair your behavioral data with your ad click data will open up a new frontier of behavioral data mining that will further fuel the Google system and lead to additional advances in search, understanding online behavioral modes, and advertising strategies.
Of course, the inexorable move to personal data integration (Facebook and Twitter are hard at work on similar initiatives and will be the next to jump into the data+search game - credit card, shopping club, and survey companies have been doing this for years) into one big-ass socio-behavioral graph pushes to the forefront a host of privacy, transparency, data control, and general social issues/questions that have been mustering force.
Stating a lack of social focus as a fundamental problem, I recently joined the ranks of those critiquing the tentative Singularity University (SU) curriculum. I found (and still do) the proposed courses to be too hard-tech centric, which is often a critique I level at singularitarians and transhumanists who often seem to project their current selves into a post-Singularity future, thus impairing the visioning of how we get there.
At the same time, I want to clarify that though I do agree with the crux of Jamais Cascio's argument that, "A useful Singularity University ... would be one that dove deeply into the nature of disruption, how society and technology co-evolve, and how we deal with unintended and unanticipated results of our choices," I believe his suggested curriculum goes too far in that it does amount to a "social studies/liberal arts crash course with a future twist" as Brian Wang pointed out in the discussion thread. It's not the sort of thing that will appeal to economic movers and shakers.
Still, I strongly disagree with Wang's assertion that, "The politics, ethics and social matters do have their place but as part of a TED conference or a conference specifically on the risks and issues. Trying to force feed it in this kind of program will not work." My issue being that I believe politics, ethics and social matters to be part of convergent acceleration.
The emphasis needs to be on the manner in which all of these technologies, trends, and issues fit together. (Please follow below the fold for Proposed Curriculum.)
To scale and dominate as quickly as Google has, a new company will need to generate serious end-user value, monetize effecively, and take a new web-based approach to human resources. One such structure might be an organization specializing in prosumer-based quantification (structured crowd-sourced info mining) that can expand and contract quickly by paying citizen quantifiers for quality content that they input (think adsense, but more structured and directed from the outset). I imagine that this sort of company could catalyze big, fast economic growth and play an important role in generating positive-sum network value as we move further into the acceleration era.
To get the discussion of such a possibility rolling here's a speculative timeline of such a company (2011-2015) that I've cleverly dubbed "Quantification Company":
2011 - Launch: A logical outgrowth of flash mobs, open mapping parties, and steadily rising prosumerism, the Quantification Company (QC) was created in 2011 with the mission of "organizing and accelerating the comprehensive quantification of Earth's most valued systems." The for-profit organization relied on a small core of programmers, salespeople and community managers to catalyze quantification cascades, better known as Data Swarms, for a large variety of clients, but mostly municipalities and large corporations. Early efforts were kept simple and focused mostly on the rapid and/or real-time HD video mapping of U.S. cities, national parks, and other under-quantified areas of interest. Traffic-based fees were paid out to citizen quantifiers who captured and uploaded the best geographic footage and/or commentary. Though they were slightly nervous at the ambition and direction of the QC, competitors like Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia were happy to see traffic and content flow through their systems.
The latest intriguing mini-projector to hit store shelves (in Japan) is a small cubic, 25 ANSI Lumen LED called the Miseal. Manufactured by little-know Japanese comapny Sanko, the device is just 2.7in. x 2.7in. x 2.8in. and weighs just over half a pound.
Sporting a 100:1 contrast ratio, 800x600 SVGA resolution and ability to cast an image up to 16ft. away at a diagonal width of 70in, the Miseal packs a serious punch for something of such wee size.
The now-publicized curriculum of Ray Kurzweil's newly launchedSingularity University (SU), a very necessary institution that aims to "assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity's grand challenges", yet again reveals what I have come to call the Transhumanist Ego Bias (TEB), which results in the Hard-Tech Attribution Error (HTAE) that Jamais Cascio so eloquently describes in his Flunking Out SU critique.
Transhumanist Ego Bias: The TEB is a tendency among transhumanists to force their objective vision of the future to fit with their subjective expectation of the future. Many of the futurists and outright transhumanists that I have come to know and respect over the years suffer from this. (I too came down with it for a spell when I first encountered the awesome power of Moore's Law and other hard-tech diffusion curves.) It's as if they 1) expect the future to create a magical utopia into which they project their unchanged present-day personalities, 2) can't or don't want to credit the dumb masses (their detractors) with the ability to perform amazing operations (social computation) critical to acceleration, and/or 3) are so focused on the post-human age / life-extending digitization that they fail to adequately consider what it will take to get there.
Hard-Tech Attribution Error: It's no accident that brainiac, hardware-focused, early-adopter types who formulated their core outlook prior to the explosion of social media structures like Facebook, Wikipedia and Digg tend to focus on the "hard" sciences in lieu of recently blooming areas such as group intelligence, emotional intelligence, coordination, and communication. The social side of the equation is not as obvious to those that haven't studied it closely, lived it or worked in fields that rely on social networks to make a living. The result is that the social component of acceleration (despite a few courtesy nods to Intelligence Amplification [IA] over the years) is seriously undervalued as a driver.
Pipl.com is a new biographical search engine that actually works.
The secret? In addition to doing a good job with the search basics, Pipl also returns results from what it calls "the deep web", "a vast repository of underlying content, such as documents in online databases that general-purpose web crawlers cannot reach."
According to a study conducted by the Journal of Electronic Publishing, "public information on the deep Web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web."
A quick search on Pipl does indeed return results from this new search frontier, making the new product a truly useful tool. Just see for yourself.
This successful application of course prompts a whole set of questions about the future of seach, such as:
How deep does the deep web really go? (Deep - quickly getting much deeper.)
How fast will Pipl grow? (Fast.)
Is Google working on similar projects. (Yes, and also expanding the deep web.)
Who will buy it? (Microsoft, Yahoo.)
Will Pipl change web culture by making personal data more accessible? (Yes. It's already the best free background check online and will make people nervous about their social network profiles and decade-OLD data.)
The Google Blog: Until today, Google Earth displayed only one image of a given place at a given time. With this new feature, you can now move back and forth in time to reveal imagery from years and even decades past, revealing changes over time. Try flying south of San Francisco in Google Earth and turning on the new time slider (click the "clock" icon in the toolbar) to witness the transformation of Silicon Valley from a farming community to the tech capital of the world over the past 50 years or so.
Along with a new 3d Mars feature, the additions have increased the scope and resolution of the largest publicly accessible simulation of our physical system, thus expanding the Google's information scaffolding and future monetization opportunities through an increasingly valuable Mirror World.
The new features also reinforce the notion of a rapidly growing retro-quantification industry rooted in our social desire to achieve topsight over space and time. A resource that quickly allows people to surf physical history is obviously critical to bettering our view of reality and thus improving the efficiency of our economic behavior.