Digital Identity Management
Scott C. Lemon, Exploring Identity in the Internet Age


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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Joi was supposed to be presenting on the Future of Blogging, but immediately said that he wasn't going to only talk about blogging.  :-)

He had some good stuff to say about a wide range of subjects ... Wikipedia, Firefox, File Sharing ... and more on Wikipedia.  He brought up fansubs - which I hadn't heard of, but makes perfect sense.  People take various video content, and then add their own subtitles in their own language.  Joi also showed a very cool remix of The Matrix Reloaded done by someone who put together a bunch of anime clips to the same sound track.

I had not heard of ccMixter ... it's a Creative Commons music site.  Of course he promoted the concepts of tags and technorati ... Plazes ... and how quickly tagging has taken off ... a new free-form way for organizing/categorizing information, and more importantly information flows.

Too much good stuff to blog ... what a great spew of information!

11:04:00 PM      

The evening sessions tonight started off with some interesting "open mic" Q&A ... some of the highschool students from the audience spoke about their perspectives ... it was interesting to hear.

Jerry got up to start talking about Brave New Virtual Worlds ... and jumped right into some of the interesting things going on in Second Life.  He talked about how there are now all sorts of real-world to virtual-world interactions.  One example was a Cancer Society fund raiser where Second Life characters walked in Second Life to raise money in the real world.  In addition, Jerry even holds regular Future Salon meetings within Second Life where other Second Life avatars come to participate and listen to virtual presenters.

He briefly talked about the Croquet Project ... something that will be in a talk tomorrow.  Another virtual world project.  I downloaded the Second Life client software and will sign up for a free account ... I want to see what this is about.  Hmmmm ... my first virtual identity in a 3D virtual world.

10:36:47 PM      

To start things off, when I walked into the session Esther was pointing people to Vizu ... very cool polling site. I'm now signed up and playing around with it. I pretty much missed a lot of the rest ... it was basically an open Q&A session ... there were a lot of good questions about ICANN, privacy, and the accountable Internet.

5:44:24 PM      

I have always liked reading John Udell ... I think this might be the first time to see him present. His talk is on Annotating the Planet and started with a very cool mash-up demo using Google Maps. He reviewed the various Google maps mash-ups, and then went into some details on his various bike rides that he is mapping with the Gmaps Pedometer.

He touched on the areas of privacy and geotagging of all sorts of information. Referring to David Brins book The Transparent Society he had some commentary on how to potentially protect ourselves from the abuse of this information, and how to control who can get at this information.

He pointed to David Rumsey's web site, and quoted from his talk at a recent conference. David has an amazing collection of maps ... and is doing some very cool synthesizing of old and new maps.

4:49:29 PM      

The next breakout was supposed to be a video conference with Robert Hecht-Nielsen, but something didn't work out ... so they chose to play a DVD of his presentation. Still interesting. The best part was the term "Confabulation Theory"! Yeah ... confabulation is a word that is in the dictionary.

His presentation explained how four key concepts form the foundation of cognition.

He started by proposing that cortical modules exist in the brain, and each of these is responsible for describing one attribute of Objects in the Mental Universe. These cortical modules are made up of groupings of neurons in the form of symbols that we learn at an early age. Each symbol is made up of ~60 neurons. Symbols could be names, colors, or any other attribute of an object. As numerous cortical modules are receiving sensory input, confabulation occurs ... triggering behavior.

Again, he emphasized that it is the quantity of knowledge that allows for confabulation to occur. Billions of knowledge links. One third of our life or more is spent learning the foundations. Language is the essential core of cognition.  As we grow up we develop a rich set of symbols, and interconnections between symbols - between cortical modules - by hearing words combined with other sensory experiences.

There is more information about his theories in this article about his new theory of cognition.

4:11:13 PM      

After lunch at Accelerating Change 2005 we progressed into a series of breakout sessions. The first of of my choices was tough, but I went to a session titled Shrinking the Planet given by:
Peter Barrett, Microsoft IPTV
Scott Rafer, Feedster
Peter started off commenting on the growth of bandwidth to the home, and also the improvements in codec technologies. Both of these are combining to create an environment for on-demand IP delivered video content. This environment is quickly becoming the foundation for supporting the long tail concepts for video. He showed some demos of IPTV, and talked about the metadata that will be exposed in the TV guide - like how many people are watching a particular show, or even specific people you know like your family and friends. He said that the project is based on the DVR concepts, and that one of the initial partners is SBC with their Project Lightspeed.

Scott began his talk with some thoughts that are similar to mine ... that AI might just come from millions of interconnected humans. He referenced Dodgeball, and expanded on this theme with various potential mash-ups of various datasources. His slide titled Humans Will Be My AI gave a number of examples where large amounts of data - aggregated by humans - become the valuable source of metaperspectives. It was almost funny how many people were uncomfortable during the Q&A with his perspective of AI not necessarily being something that is created on a computer from some lab. Maybe one day ... but sooner then that I believe that humans are quickly becoming the "sensors and actuators" at the edges of a growing AI ...

3:18:19 PM      

The first panel discussion here at Accelerating Change 2005 was on the Prospects of AI. The panel includes an impressive line-up of people:
Neil Jacobstein, Chair, Innovative Applications of AI 2005; CEO, Teknowledge
Patrick Lincoln, Director, Computer Science Lab, SRI International
Peter Norvig, Director of Search Quality, Google; Author, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (the world's leading texbook in AI)
Bruno Olshausen, Director, Redwood Ctr for Theoretical Neuroscience
The introduction by Neil gave an overview of the many Task Areas being explored in the development of Artificial Intelligence. The key aspects of development are in Knowledge Engineering, Systems Engineering, and Business & Cultural. In his bullets about Ontologies and the Semantic Web, he referenced examples of early work - Cyc (OpenCyc), SUMO, and OWL.

The second speaker, Patrick, talked to the value of AI - Intelligence Amplification - and why this is necessary. The increasing gap between the complexities of technology, and human capabilities is causing more and more failures. AI can augment our ability to design complex systems, debug complex systems, and even operate complex systems. He talked about AI providing powerful abstracations - at the right levels - for both designers and operators. His examples included the progress and predictions in the uses of UAVs.

Third was Peter, from Google, who started with a slide titled AI in the Middle. His comments were about AI existing between authors and readers. His first point was about Machine Learning ... and joked about the fact that we don't know how to do it. His comments on AI in the Middle included how authors can write trillions of words, systems can detect certain patterns, and intelligent readers can then actually sort through this and find information. He went on to give examples of where apparent intelligence can emerge from larger amounts of data . .. giving examples of the accuracy of Arabic translation based on larger and larger data sets of example translation.

Bruno was the final panel speaker, and his area of research - Theoretical Neuroscience - is looking to the brain to gain insights into AI. The view of his team is to understand intelligence by understanding the brain. Not only the human brain ... but also other animal brains. One example is Jumping Spiders. He reviewed the knowledge that they have gained, and some interesting points that they are exploring. One area they have learned about involves vision, and where for each neural connection of retinal data (vision) coming in from the outside world, there are 10 times as many feedback connections coming from the cortex of the brain. So there is more information coming from the model in our own brain of what we are seeing, then the actual information being sensed! The model that we have in our mind contributes more feedback that what we are actually seeing! He explained that this is only one rich feedback loop that they are working to better understand.

It seems that all of the speakers look at advanced AI arising out of the shear number of patterns and complexities of their foundation work. I have to agree with them ... what we perceive as AI just might end up being an emergent property of the systems that we are creating ... not the explicit result of the planning and construction of the system.

12:24:31 PM      

I always enjoy listening to Ray Kurzweil speak on his vision of the future. He is spectacular thinker who notices and tracks many of the subtle trends in sciences that are the precursors to future events.

It is interesting to hear Ray start off by talking about the possible "bad" scenarios that could emerge in the future. He ventured into the conversation about how it will take new advanced techologies to protect us from current advanced technologies. This led to a good thread fof conversation on foresight and prediction ... how to analyze trends to see if the timing was right for the delivery of a new technology.

He always has a lot of supporting measures for his predictions ... and he immediately jumped into these. He used a new graphic that reviewed his 6 Epochs of Evolution that map to a set of substrate transitions that we are in the midst of. What is impressive about his research is that he is open to include different sources of detailed information and add it to his analysis ... and still demonstrate that his theories are on track. He is very good at showing that Moore's Law applies to far more than just computing power ... but to almost anything around us.

He talked about some of the great new genetic and biological research where we are becoming more and more capable of controlling our genes. He commented on some interesting work where gene interference research is allowing us to more easily turn on and turn off individual genes by attaching to the RNA within a cell. Some of the first outcomes will be drugs that will stop cells from hanging on to extra calories ... something that is not as important (obviously!) in a world where food is more plentiful.

Miniaturization is another exponential trend that Ray explored ... talking about Respirocytes - nanomechanical replacements for red blood cells - and Microbivores II - nanomechanical replacements for white blood cells. Both of these are being simulated, and many of the underlying technologies are in research today.

He jumped to some examples of economic growth by a wide variety of measurements ... again demonstrating Moore's Law all around us.

He wrapped up with a couple of great slides ... his thoughts of the future:

2010:  Computers Disappear
  • Images written directly to our retinas
  • Ubiquitous high bandwidth connection to the Internet at all times
  • Electronics so tiny it's embedded in the environment, our clothing, our eyeglasses
  • Full immersion visual-auditory virtual reality
  • Augmented real reality
  • Interaction with virtual personalities as a primary interface
  • Effective language technologies
2029:  An intimate merger
  • $1,000 of computation = 1,000 times the human brain
  • Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
  • Computers pass the Turing test
  • Nonbiological intelligence combines
    • the subtlety and pattern recognition strength of human intelligence, with
    • the speed, memory, and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
  • Nonbiological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas biological intelligence is effectively fixed
Imagine if only half of these things occur ... or if even more occurs!  The accelerating future!

11:13:58 AM      

John Smart founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation kicked things off by talking about the future, and future studies. This entire conference is presenting a multidisciplinary view of the future, and the effects of acceleration caused by the technological revolution. John primed the pump with some interesting comments, and a quick review of the speakers.

He then introduced the first speaker ... someone who I have wanted to hear speak for quite some time ... Vernor Vinge. Vernor is given credit for first using the term the "technological singularity". He immediately jumped into his presentation ... the slides are here: Vernor Vinge @ AC2005

It was fun to hear his line of thinking about the Singularity, and various types of growth curves. His slides contain a good set of quotes and thoughts about possibility. What is so great is to hear a speaker like this talking about the future, and some of the "inevitable" future events ... the development of creativity and intellect that surpasses present-day humans, this *is* the Singularity ... and the future of being human will evolve into whole new dimensions. He talks about direct neural hook ups of computers as inevitable in a way that makes you realize this is not a question of if ... but when.

He spent some time talking about the soft takeoff vs. hard takeoff scenarios. As he discussed soft takeoffs he highly recommended Accelerando as a great book exploring "soft takeoffs" as one possible scenario.   Amazing stuff.  He is a big thinker.

10:17:15 AM      

Last night was the AC2005 Tech Night reception up at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, CA.  It was a great gathering with an amazing set of demonstrations.  A lot of fun.  Some of the things that I really enjoyed were:
  • Digital Identity - I got to meet Kaliya Hamlin - Identity Woman - in person.  She was at an Identity Commons booth, and I also spent time talking with Ajay Madhok - founder and CEO of AmSoft Systems - and saw his demonstration of using iNames with cell phones ... some cool stuff.
  • New Space Technologies - I met Michael Mealing of Masten Space Systems.  They are working on re-useable low-cost launch vehicles for taking smaller payloads (one cubic meter) into space.  They are looking to do a first launch in 2007 ... so not too far away.  It was fun to see that this type of thinking - and work towards making it a reality! - is becoming so commonplace today.
  • OpenCroquet - there was a great demo of the OpenCroquet system ... something that I am going to go and check out more.
  • IMSmarter - these guys have a very cool couple of products with their IMSmarter and pbwiki products ... both are consumer extensions of existing technologies with cool spins.  The IMSmarter application is unique is that they are leveraging the power of Internet "proxies" to insert themselves in the stream of communications to add enhanced services.
  • TroyWorks - Troy Gardner was there showing off some of his TroyWorks visual interfaces that were very cool.  I have some ideas that I am discussing with him ... I really like what he is doing.
  • Tactical Iraqi - this was an amazing example of how learning tools are evolving.  Tactical Iraqi is a combination of traditional learning and gaming to rapidly teach Arabic to people.
The conference is starting ... I'm looking forward to being blown away ...

10:04:28 AM      

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