Think you’re immune to Google Search? A new effort by the company promises to unearth your embarrassing Elementary School photos, achievements and other data, then incorporate those into the Google brain.
The Retro-Active Quantification Industry, which I believe will grow to a multi-billion $ valuation by 2015, made a big leap forward this week with the release of Google’s News Archive Search.
Many years in the works, the new service/feature allows users to do exactly what it says – search a huge body of archived small-town newspapers that have been scanned into Google’s system, converted from visual to text data using the company’s perfected system (note: they’re also working on a similar but more robust system that will mine text data – t-shirts, street signs, house #s, etc. – from photographs), and then indexed using Google’s world-famous search.
Best of all, Google allows you to view the original scanned images and “browse through them exactly as they were printed—photographs, headlines, articles, advertisements and all”, much like a microfiche in a library basement (remember those?).
The increasing richness of memorial media is a powerful by-product of accelerating change in technology, information and communication. In five years time, both broad public-facing and private 3d memorial media has a good chance of taking off, gradually catalyzing a shift in the way we interact with history and our dearly departed.
How do we properly remember and honor the dead? Our cultural answer to this question has changed over the millennia alongside with the invention of memory-enhancing technologies such as symbols, spoken language, writing, photography, video, digital information and the web.
Now the trend continues as powerful new disruptors such as social media, semantic search, virtual worlds and mirror worlds allow us to assemble, aggregate and interact with information about the dearly departed in surprising new ways.
On the most basic level, crowd-edited text-based structures like Wikipedia have already catalyzed an explosion of biographical data capture and made possible a growing niche of specialized human memorial websites.
Similarly, account-driven portals like Geanealogy.com’s Virtual Cemetery Project, MyCemetery, and World Gardens have been growing in popularity and each lay claim to being “The World’s First Online Memorial and Virtual Cemetery” or such.
In the physical world, progressive cemetery Hollywood Forever, which boasts the densest concentration of celebrity gravesites, has sparked a media memorial trend by displaying actors’ hilight reels beside their tombs. (Yes, for a pretty steep price you too can purchase your very own Lifestories Kiosk.)
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
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
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
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.)
Atop a garbage heap amidst the expansive Westchester Landfill an iRobot Refuse Quantifier (iRQ) deftly went about its lucrative business.
Credit card receipt: inconclusive. Candy wrapper: M&M logo, no fingerprint. Check fragment: inconclusive. Candy wrapper: M&M logo, no fingerprint. Candy wrapper: Almond Joy, smudged fingerprint, image stored to temporary cache. Comb: zoom, hair strand: 92% match. Load level 2 protocols. Letter fragment: stamp fragment, zoom, puncture, contaminated sample. Product box fragment: Nintendo Wii logo, burnt, no data. Shredded tax documents: inconclusive, coordinates tagged in case of reassembly contingent on identity correlation.
The mechanical spider legs pumped and the little scavenger-bot systematically inched left, establishing a better focus point for its frontal laser array. The iRQ began scanning the next set of coordinates.
An identity match for a primary target had been established! Power surged from the tertiary battery outward as the spider maxed both input and broadcast. But something was wrong. The swarm network was not responding. Thus it was highly probable that the iRQ was now invisible to its peers and ultimately its owner.
Re-broadcast for 3 seconds. No ping back. Defensive algorithm, blend. Scan for disruption, risk assessment. Attempt new frequencies. Multiple frequencies inoperable. 84% deliberate disruption, 62% location awareness, evasive algorithm.
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.
A one-stop shop for ancestral information, Footnote aggregates, sorts and structures historical documents “relating to the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, US Presidents, historical newspapers, naturalization documents, etc”, then mixes in social networking and user feedback to create useful timelines, historical links and family trees. Basically, they’re trying to corner the market on ancestral information by taking the most comprehensive approach possible.
It’s a brilliant and inevitable idea. As Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn, Google, and Wikipedia dominate the social networking and information pie, other companies looking to strike it rich are forced to carve out more focused value niches outside the direct scope of the big boys. From a macro perspective, it’s clear that these companies need to mix a monetizable model with novel/valuable content and a good user experience. And that’s exactly what Footnote is trying to pull off here.
By focusing on historical information, Footnote is avoiding major head-on competition (though Google certainly will make a big dent, but – then again – is also a likely acquirer) as it tries to rapidly grow community and data value. As a result, it has become yet another force behind the relatively nascent Retro-Quant trend, essentially making it a smarter historian thanks to it’s unique techno-social approach.
The fact that such a business model makes perfect economic sense reinforces the notion that Retro-Quant will grow to become a multi-billion $ industry sometime over the next several years. There’s simply too much value to be unearthed: human behavioral data, hidden crime (on many levels), genetic/evolutionary patterns, cognitive patterns, etc.