Intellectual attribution is far from perfect, but as we systematically quantify the nature of the vast Idea Sea in which we swim, we will also create a more effective and equitable market for new innovations.
Last week a pair of Nobel Prize winning scientists conceded that much of their research had been based on an earlier study by a geneticist who now drives a shuttle for $8/hour just to keep food on the table, but of course didn’t go so far as to offer him a share of the $1.5 million prize they’d been awarded. This example clearly brings into focus the limits of our current idea attribution economy, a system that clearly isn’t encouraging a Nobel-caliber scientist to continue innovating for broader social benefit.
But rather than jump on the IP- and patent-bashing bandwagon as many bloggers tend to do, I’d like to explore how our idea attribution system might evolve over the coming decade.
First, let me be clear about my definition of the term “idea”. Ideas can more specifically be broken down into memes – “ideas or behaviors that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation”, memeplexes – “groups of religious, cultural, political, and idealogical doctrines and systems”, and temes – “information copied by books, phones, computers and the Internet”. These structures co-evolve with humans to ultimately form a massive sea of what we commonly refer to as ideas. Though individuals often combine memes into valuable new memeplexes, no one person can ever truly claim total ownership of a concept that is essentially an outgrowth of the idea sea.
A few years into the future when someone says, “I think I’ll use my lifeline,” they will no longer be referring to Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, but instead their geo-spatially coordinated content history.
According to John Schneider, CTO of clever geo-web annotator Abaq.us, we’re about to experience a powerful convergence of mirror worlds and life-logging that will enable all sorts of interesting applications including community feedback mechanisms and amplified memory.
“You’ve been to something like an antique shop last month with your wife, and you just can’t for the life of you remember where this place was or what the name of it was,” lays out Schneider, “But because you’ve life-logged you can get on your account, you can take the time slider and move it back in time to the place you were. ... Now you project that lifeline on something like Google maps, bring up the Street View, look around and there it is – there is the place you’ve been looking for.”
Witnessing the rapid spread of the Flash Mob phenomenon, fueled by emerging driver organizations like Improv Everywhere, it occurred to me that these increasingly frequent and massive events could be used as cover for various forms of criminal activity. The first scenario that popped into my head was that of a bank robber arranging such a coordinated diversion to cover his or her tracks.
For example, imagine if the following flash mob (arranged in San Francisco just two weekends ago) was diverted to surround or walk through a bank or other burglary target:
A clever criminal dressed in bright red could then use such a crowd as cover for a quick escape.
Just how feasible is such a scenario?
As it turns out, a small-scale and version of this plan was successfully executed up in Monroe, Washington just two weeks ago.
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.)
In addition to our weekly awards, every week MemeBox releases a Top 10 List of the most interesting and useful Future Scans posted the during the preceding week. This list is a great way to get acquainted with what the Future Scanner has to offer and to quickly digest some great information.
If you’re near the San Francisco Bay Area this evening, Friday the 16th, then I strongly encourage you to swing by the monthly Future Salon featuring Foresight Institute President
Christine Peterson who will be presenting on the provocative topic:
Open Source Sensing: Using open source & nanotechnology to reduce surveillance & head off Iraq-style wars.
Christine, who coined the term “open source”, contends that distributed approaches will be critical to combating the inherently distributed terrorism phenomenon:
In the U.S. and other countries, concerns regarding terrorism are driving massive new centralized surveillance systems, with little or no regard for their potential effect on civil liberties. However, unlike nuclear weapons delivered by ICBMs, terrorism is inherently a bottom-up, distributed challenge, requiring a similar response. Open source software provides a useful model for a set of technologies that address security concerns in a distributed way, with the added benefit of relatively fast response time.
We can use open source techniques, combined with the latest in sensing technologies, as an alternative to centralized surveillance. Such technologies could also build trust when used in arms control applications, potentially heading off “wars of forced inspection” such as the recent war in Iraq.
Note: Make sure the movie loads fully before watching. I am trying to upload it to YouTube, but the feature is still buggy as Xtra Normal is in beta.
Using the new Xtra Normal platform, the above video took just 30 minutes to produce. This forward-step in super-user-friendly machinima brings us just a little closer to a scenario that I like to call The Toon Point, the time when virtual-world-generated video equals the average quality of a Saturday morning cartoon created in 2005. (Why 2005? Because that’s roughly when I began thinking about the notion of a Toon Point.)
Ever since my days in the West Hollywood Metaverse House, as my buddy and former roommate Jerry Paffendorf likes to call it, I’ve been a fan of virtual worlds and looking forward to The Toon Point. Due to their ability to incorporate and network other communication technologies, the potential of virtual worlds as an Interactive Communication Technology is simply astounding, and is reflected in their rapid diffusion patterns.
By 2020 space had become an unexpectedly crowded place. Catalyzed by evolutionary shuttle design systems, increasingly capable robotics, and super-efficient solar cell technology, mankind’s Space Reach had expanded considerably. Orbital tourism had exploded, asteroid mining efforts were in their early stages, extra-terrestrial solar harvesting had become the new rage and the race to dominate the extensive lunar Helium 3 reserves (a critical step toward the seemingly inevitable construction of a Dyson Sphere) was on.
On April 1, 2021 the first lunar construction bots, assembled in orbit using scattered material from the McMullen Asteroid Incident of 2018, and sent forth by private company LunaFacia, parachuted to down to the moon. - Sure, it’s impossible due to lack of atmosphere, but please suspend your disbelief for the moment. ;)
Controlled by a mix of on-board AI algorithms and remote instruction from “pilots” orbiting the moon in private spacecraft, the multitude of Lunar Bots quickly deployed arrays of fold-out solar cells across the surface of the four major Helium-3 sites. It soon became clear that LunaFacia, a Chinese-funded venture, was systematically laying down the infrastructure for an extensive mining and nuclear energy operation.
Of course, the play to dominate lunar Helium-3 did not sit well with the United States and the Russian Federation, the #2 and #3 world economies, and so they formalized the secret Greiner-Blashinsky Lunar Surface Pact and commenced collaborative construction of a similar solar droid army.
Systems theorist, futurist and Acceleration Studies Foundation Executive Director John Smart presents a near-term scenario in which new comm technologies enable remote peer networks to effectively bond with and support mental patients, assisting in socialization and treatment from a safe distance.
Such “Symbiont Networks”, as Smart calls them, could be highly effective drivers of mental health, among other things, as they augment standard treatment that can consist of heavy medication and little face time for certain individuals.
Here’s a short clip from my recent interview with John in which he describes a Symbiont Scenario:
Detractors of the Symbiont Scenario will likely critique the “dehumanizing” aspects of distance communication and also point their fingers at unintended consequences. But, though I agree it’s highly probable that whole new classes of disorders (like autism, ADHD, etc) will continue to emerge as we co-evolve with the changing environment, I also fundamentally believe that because there’s no such thing as standing still in an environment of accelerating change it is incumbent upon us to use new technologies to help people, and our system, to self-actualize better.
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.