TECHNOLOGY

LORD OF THE CLOUD

Topic: 

  • TECHNOLOGY
http://vimeo.com/80906018

"The central idea we were working on was this idea of de-localized information — information for which I didn't care what computer it was stored on. It didn't depend on any particular computer. I didn't know the identities of other computers in the ensemble that I was working on. I just knew myself and the cybersphere, or sometimes we called it the tuplesphere, or just a bunch of information floating around. We used the analogy — we talked about helium balloons. We used a million ways to try and explain this idea."
 

LORD OF THE CLOUD

[4.23.09]

 

The central idea we were working on was this idea of de-localized information — information for which I didn't care what computer it was stored on. It didn't depend on any particular computer. I didn't know the identities of other computers in the ensemble that I was working on. I just knew myself and the cybersphere, or sometimes we called it the tuplesphere, or just a bunch of information floating around. We used the analogy — we talked about helium balloons. We used a million ways to try and explain this idea. 

Introduction

In June, 2000 Edge published David Gelernter's audacious "The Second Coming: A Manifesto", in which he wrote: "Everything is up for grabs. Everything will change. There is a magnificent sweep of intellectual landscape right in front of us". Ppublication of the manifesto led to one of the most vibrant and interesting Edge discussions, with contributions from many of the leading Edge thinkers in the area of computation. from Stewart Brand, to Freeman dyson, to W. Daniel Hillis. To reprise the introduction:

David Gelernter .....

"...prophesied the rise of the World Wide Web. He understood the idea half a decade before it happened." (John Markoff)

"...is a treasure in the world of computer science...the most articulate and thoughtful of the great living practitioners" (Jaron Lanier)

"...is one of the pioneers in getting many computers to work together and cooperate on solving a single problem, which is the future of computing." (Danny Hillis)

"...is one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time." (Bill Joy)

Yale computer scientist David Gelernter entered the public mind one morning in January '92 when The New York Sunday Timesran his picture on the front page of the business section; it filled nearly the whole page. The text of the accompanying story occupied almost another whole page inside.

In 1991 Gelernter had published a book for technologists (an extended research paper) called Mirror Worlds, claiming in effect that one day, there would be something like the Web. As well as forecasting the Web, the book, according to the people who built these systems, also helped lay the basis for the internet programming language "Java" and Sun Microsystems' "Jini."

Gelernter's earlier work on his parallel programming language "Linda" (which allows you to distribute a computer program across a multitude of processors and thus break down problems into a multitude of parts in order to solve them more quickly) and "tuple spaces" underlies such modern-day systems as Sun's JavaSpaces, IBM's T-Spaces, a Lucent company's new "InfernoSpaces" and many other descendants worldwide.

By mid-'92 this set of ideas had taken hold and was exerting a strong influence . By 1993 the Internet was growing fast, and the Web was about to be launched. Gelernter's research group at Yale was an acknowledged world leader in network software and more important, it was known for "The Vision Thing", for the big picture.

In June '93 everything stopped for Gelernter when he was critically injured by a terrorist mailbomb. He was out of action for the rest of '93 and most of '94 as the Web took off, the Internet become an international phenomenon and his aggressive forecasts started to come true. Gelernter endured numerous surgeries through 95, and then a long recuperation period.

Now Gelernter is back. In this audacious manifesto, "The Second Coming", he writes: "Everything is up for grabs. Everything will change. There is a magnificent sweep of intellectual landscape right in front of us."

In his manifesto, Gelernter further developed ideas he had been working on since the 1980s. One such idea was that of the cyberbody as a "cloud":

17. A cyberbody can be replicated or distributed over many computers; can inhabit many computers at the same time. If the Cybersphere's computers are tiles in a paved courtyard, a cyberbody is a cloud's drifting shadow covering many tiles simultaneously.

He also inroduced his idea of the "life stream":

38. A "lifestream" organizes information not as a file cabinet does but roughly as a mind does.

39. A lifestream is a sequence of all kinds of documents — all the electronic documents, digital photos, applications, Web bookmarks, rolodex cards, email messages and every other digital information chunk in your life — arranged from oldest to youngest, constantly growing as new documents arrive, easy to browse and search, with a past, present and future, appearing on your screen as a receding parade of index cards. Documents have no names and there are no directories; you retrieve elements by content: "Fifth Avenue" yields a sub-stream of every document that mentions Fifth Avenue.

40. A stream flows because time flows, and the stream is a concrete representation of time. The "now" line divides past from future. If you have a meeting at 10AM tomorow, you put a reminder document in the future of your stream, at 10AM tomorrow. It flows steadily towards now. When now equals 10AM tomorrow, the reminder leaps over the now line and flows into the past. When you look at the future of your stream you see your plans and appointments, flowing steadily out of the future into the present, then the past.

Today, Bill Gates's name is synonymous with Microsoft Basic. A mention of Bill Joy in the press is usally accompanied by acknowledgement of his early development work on UNIX. Ted Nelson is always associated with hypertext. Jaron Lanier is often identified and credited with his pioneering work on virtual reality. But rarely are "cloud computing" and "lifestreams" (or "lifestreaming") presented in connection with, and with proper credit to, the visionary behind them.

Edge asked John Markoff, who covers technology for The New York Times, and first brought Gelernter's ideas to a wide reading public with his 1991New York Times profile, and social software seer Clay Shirky. a professor at NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), to talk to Gelernter about his ideas. The roundtable took place in New York City on April 25, 2009.

-JB

DAVID GELERNTER is a professor of computer science at Yale and chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies (New Haven). His research centers on information management, parallel programming, and artificial intelligence. The "tuple spaces" introduced in Nicholas Carriero and Gelernter's Linda system (1983) are the basis of many computer communication systems worldwide. He is the author of Mirror Worlds, and Drawiing a Life: Surviving the Unabomber.

David Gelernter's Edge Bio page

JOHN MARKOFF covers the computer industry and technology for The New York Times. He is the coauthor of Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw (with Tsutomu Shimomura), and author of What The Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry.

John Markoff's Edge Bio page

CLAY SHIRKY is an adjunct professor in NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where he teaches courses on the interrelated effects of social and technological network topology—how our networks shape culture and vice-versa. He is the author of Here Comes Everybody.

Clay Shirky's Edge Bio page


GIN, TELEVISION, AND COGNITIVE SURPLUS

[8.20.08]

And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we're talking about. It's so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 98 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

I think that's going to be a big deal. Don't you?

Introduction
By John Brockman

Reporting on the recent Edge Master Class 08 in Sonoma, George Dyson wrote:

Retreating to the luxury of Sonoma to discuss economic theory in mid-2008 conveys images of Fiddling while Rome Burns. Do the architects of Microsoft, Amazon, Google, PayPal, and Facebook have anything to teach the behavioral economists—and anything to learn? So what? What's new?? As it turns out, all kinds of things are new.

"All kinds of things are new", and something very big is in the air. According to Sean Parker, the cofounder of Napster, Plaxo, and Facebook (as well as Facebook's founding president) who was present in Sonoma. "If you're not on Facebook, you don't exist".

Social software has arrived, and if you don't pay attention and take onboard the developments at Google, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc., you are opting out of being a serious player in the realm of 21st Century ideas.

One of the more interesting contributions to the 2008 Edge World Question Center event was by Tim O'Reilly, the always-innovative guru, entrepreneur, publisher/evangelist of Web 2.0 social software revolution. In his piece (below), O'Reilly writes about his initial skepticism regarding Clay Shirky's 2002 vision of "social software". These comments are an infomative preamble to a recent talk in which Shirky coins the phrase "cognitive surplus".

According to Shirky:

Starting after the second world war, a whole host of factors, like rising GDP, rising educational attainment, and rising life-span, forced the industrialized world to grapple with something new: free time. Lots and lots of free time. The amount of unstructured time among the educated population ballooned, accounting for billions of hours a year. And what did we do with that time? Mostly, we watched TV.

Society never really knows what do do with any surplus at first. (That's what makes it a surplus.) In this case, we had to find something to do with the sudden spike in surplus hours. The sitcom was our gin, a ready-made response to the crisis of free time. TV has become a half-time job for most citizens of the industrialized world, at an average of 20 hours a week, every week, for decades.

Now, though, for the first time in its history, young people are watching less TV than their elders, and the cause of the decline is competition for their free time from media that allow for active and social participation, not just passive and individual consumption.

The value in media is no longer in sources but in flows; when we pool our cognitive surplus, it creates value that doesn't exist when we operate in isolation. The displacement of TV watching is coming among people who are using more of their time to make things and do things, sometimes alone and sometimes together, and to share those things with others.

When Shirky first made this assertion at a tech conference, he was astonished to see the video of the speech rocket around the web faster and more broadly than anything else he had ever said or done.

Shirky believes that "we can take advantage of our cognitive surplus, but only if we start regarding pure consumption as an anomaly, and broad participation as the norm. This not a dispassionate argument, because the stakes are so high. We don't get to decide whether we want a new society. The changes we are under can't be rolled back, nor contained in the present institutional frameworks. What we might get to decide is how we want this change to turn out."

"To call the current opportunity 'once in a lifetime'", he continues, "understates its enormity; the change in the social landscape is altering institutions that have been stable for generations, and making possible new kinds of human engagement that have never existed before. The results could be a marvel, or a catastrophe, depending on how seriously we try to shape what's possible."

If you want new, and original thinking, look no further.

Edge is pleased to present the video and transcript of Shirky's talk below with the hope that an ensuing Reality Club discussion will further sharpen the argument.

JB

CLAY SHIRKY is an adjunct professor in NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where he teaches courses on the interrelated effects of social and technological network topology—how our networks shape culture and vice-versa. He is the author of Here Comes Everybody.

Clay Shirky's Edge Bio page


[16:30 minutes]

 

THE REALITY CLUB: Nicholas Carr, Chris Anderson, James O'Donnell


 

BIG DATA COMMERCE VS BIG DATA SCIENCE

Topic: 

  • TECHNOLOGY
http://vimeo.com/83538930

"What I would like to argue for is to stop using the idea of big data as this big rubric to cover all these practices within businesses, like Google, that don't really have the structure to close the empirical loop to determine what part of their success is based on scientifically replicable and testable analytic results versus science, where that's really all we care about. Science is never, in my opinion, going to just get automatic, and it's very rarely easy."

BIG DATA COMMERCE VS BIG DATA SCIENCE

[8.8.08]

What I would like to argue for is to stop using the idea of big data as this big rubric to cover all these practices within businesses, like Google, that don't really have the structure to close the empirical loop to determine what part of their success is based on scientifically replicable and testable analytic results versus science, where that's really all we care about. Science is never, in my opinion, going to just get automatic, and it's very rarely easy.


 

JARON LANIER is a computer scientist, composer, and visual artist. He is the author of You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto.

Jaron Lanier's Edge Bio Page


[33:25 minutes]


BIG DATA COMMERCE VS BIG DATA SCIENCE

[JARON LANIER:] I understand myself to be prompted in this case to speak on the topic of big data, and big data is a big topic. The main thing I would like to say about it is that it's two topics.  I'd like to propose that we would benefit from thinking differently about big data in the sciences versus big data in commerce. I'd like to focus on some of the differences between the two domains.

THE NEXT RENAISSANCE

Topic: 

  • TECHNOLOGY

"Computers and networks finally offer us the ability to write. And we do write with them. Everyone is a blogger, now. Citizen bloggers and YouTubers who believe we have now embraced a new "personal" democracy. Personal, because we can sit safely at home with our laptops and type our way to freedom.

THE NEXT RENAISSANCE

[7.10.08]

Computers and networks finally offer us the ability to write. And we do write with them. Everyone is a blogger, now. Citizen bloggers and YouTubers who believe we have now embraced a new "personal" democracy. Personal, because we can sit safely at home with our laptops and type our way to freedom.

But writing is not the capability being offered us by these tools at all. The capability is programming—which almost none of us really know how to do. We simply use the programs that have been made for us, and enter our blog text in the appropriate box on the screen. Nothing against the strides made by citizen bloggers and journalists, but big deal. Let them eat blog.

Introduction

"The Next Renaissance" is Douglas Rushkoff's keynote address at Personal Democracy Forum 2008 (PDF) took place June 23-24 in New York City, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

PDF, which is run by Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry, tracks how presidential candidates are using the web, and vice versa, how content generated by voters is affecting the campaign. According to the organizers: "The 2008 election will be the first where the Internet will play a central role, not only in terms of how the campaigns use technology, but also in how voter-generated content affects its course." This is the first of several PDF presentations which Edge will run this summer.

— JB

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF is an author, lecturer, and social theorist. His books include Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, Media Virus!, and Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say.

Douglas Rushkoff's Edge Bio Page

NEWSPAPERS AND THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE

[3.16.08]

When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.

CLAY SHIRKY is an adjunct professor in NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where he teaches courses on the interrelated effects of social and technological network topology — how our networks shape culture and vice-versa. He is the author of Here Comes Everybody.

Clay Shirky's Edge Bio page

THE REALITY CLUB: Nicholas Carr, Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas, Marc Frons 

PANORAMAS AND PHOTO TECHNOLOGY FROM ICELAND AND GREENLAND

[2.5.08]

Imagine telling Ansel wait for new algorithms, so your pictures can improve. It's a very different world today.

This feature contains some panoramic shots that are created by stitching together multiple frames into one picture. These were mostly taken during my recent trip to Iceland and Greenland.

DR. NATHAN MYHRVOLD is CEO and managing director of Intellectual Ventures, a private entrepreneurial firm. Before Intellectual Ventures, Dr. Myhrvold spent 14 years at Microsoft Corporation. In addition to working directly for Bill Gates, he founded Microsoft Research and served as Chief Technology Officer.

Nathan Myhrvold's Edge Bio Page

BETTER THAN FREE

[2.5.08]

This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports — that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.

Introduction 

"I am still writing my next book which is about what technology wants," writes Kevin Kelly. "I'm posting my thoughts in-progress on The Technium, a semi-blog." Kelly is one of the three sages that I consult with regularly editorial matters pertaining to Edge. The other two members of the hitherto ultra-secretive "Council of Elders" are Stewart Brand and George Dyson. Here, he invites the Edge community to look over his shoulder and provide feedback on his latest thoughts.

-JB

KEVIN KELLY is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He helped launch Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor until January 1999. He is currently editor and publisher of the popular Technium, Cool Tools, True Film, and Street Use websites. He is the author of Out of Control.

Kevin Kelly''s Edge Bio Page


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