Building the Metaverse @ AC2005

I am intrigued by the growth of 3D virtual worlds, and this session is
one that I have been looking forward to. David Smith of the Croquet Project started off in his demonstration of Croquet. Alan Kay and his Squeak project are both contributors to this work.

Croquet is a peer to peer collaborative 3D world. Avatars within
the Croquet world can interact with objects, and the lower level
messages are replicated within the peer group. He demonstrated
this by manipulating some windows in the world, along with more complex
objects. He also demonstrated stepping through a window … a
portal … into a moon/mars scape. Moving through these portals
allows the avatars to enter into alternative worlds. They both
went through a portal into a “water world” and immediately transformed
into fish. As they swam around they came across a “text editor”
white board thing … and edited the text on it.

Ok … he just opened a paint panel and drew a fish, colored it, and
then inflated the 2D fish as he dropped it into the world. Now
both of them were able to manipulate and move the new fish
around. He entered another portal and showed a interactive
spreadsheet, with the inherent ability to graph the values contained in
the chart. He also demonstrated using windows as filters to show
a filtered view of anything behind it. He was able to move it
around showing the wire-frame models beneath the textures mapped onto

All of this is written in Smalltalk, and uses Squeak … completely
cross-platform to Windows, Mac, and Linux. He indicated that they
will have a Python, Ruby, and other language support soon.

Expanding on his filter demo, he showed how he can open a new window
and use it as a portal to create new objects in the virtual world
through the new window. So the window become a palette through
which you are able to create even more content. Of course, as a
development environment, he is also able to add code that will add
behaviors to the objects.  I’m downloading it!

T. Colin Campbell @ AC2005

Just prior to lunch I’m in a session on diet and nutrition … good
timing.  What I really like about this conference is the
multi-disciplinary sessions … the accelerating future of 

This session is titled T. Colin Campbell, Cornell University.  Changing the World one
Bite at a Time: The China Study

and he is immediately jumping into the “common sense” knowledge. 
I’m sure that he is about to throw out some curves.  He feels that
good nutrition is being forgotten … we just don’t think abou tit, or
the implications, on a daily basis.  Like every time that we
eat.  Oh … and he said that supplements are NOT nutrition in his

One powerful statement was that he believes that nutrition can bring
the responsibility of health back to the individual!  In our age
of exploding health costs, this makes complete sense.  We know
that good nutrition can prevent and cure disease, controls disease
producing genes, and reduces toxicities and facilitates
metabolism.  He expressed his frustration where in specialized
groups – sports as an example – the value of nutrition is so well known
… but not communicated to the average person.

He reviewed his research into high-protein diets … 20%+ … and the
high-incident of cancer that they found.  Up to 10% … no effect
… but above that they saw an increased rate of cancer in
animals.  In addition, they have gathered a lot of data showing
the effects of animal proteins vs. plant proteins … and the impacts
on a long list or diseases.  At the end of his presentation he
pointed to Biosignia as a web site to check out.  Ok … time for lunch!  🙂

Rebuilding our Bypassing our Institutions? @ AC2005

This panel discussion really demonstrated the forward thinking schools
… from around the globe.  There are many new types of programs that are being introduced into traditional education.

Right now, the speaker from Tamkang
University in Taiwan, Dr. Shun-Jie Ji,
is describing
their requirements in Future Studies and STEEP – Society, Technology,
Economics, Environment, Politics.  It’s very cool to see the
multi-disciplinary aspects of what they are teaching … from sciences
to health and medicine … all forward looking and exploring the
future.  He is committed to creating stronger leaders who have the
ability to accomplish more in the future world.

The next speaker, Sr. Denise Lawrence, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual
Organization, talked about The Role of Meditation in Intelligent Learning
… yet another new twist in education.  Their experience is that
meditation alters the quality and process of thought.  These
thought processes become influenced by inner stillness, intuitive
clarity, creative insight, and innate moral wisdom.  Intelligent
learning is then enhanced and able to emerge from this experience.

The final speaker (I missed the first one!) was Robin Raskin, Digital Mom, Author, Raising Digital
and her comments are around not forgetting many of the core values of
life.  As technology continues to accelerate, we seem to be moving
away from “responsible computing”.  To her, it appears that
children are learning from adults that things are more permissible in
the virtual world that are not “ok” in the real world.  She gave
examples of where it is no longer about children being exposed to
“naked people”, but instead people who – in one case – encouraged a
teen age girl to commit suicide by providing not only the chat room
encouragement, but the detailed instructions on how to do it!  She
feels that in the current overly scheduled, overly competitive world
… children actually see cyberspace as the last place to escape their
“helicoptor parents” and hectic lives.

Most of the “guides to parenting” have fallen far behind in
communicating about cyberspace.  Children have started to lose the
distinction of what a “friend” is … they claim a friend, but often
don’t really know who that “friend” is in the real world.  Robin
feels that as corporate dollars are now flowing into Friendster,
MySpace, and other social networking sites they are becoming the same
as on-line bars.  The Pew Institute just released a study that
showed that only 38% of people – old or young – can distinguish paid
vs. unpaid content!

Robin really had to rush to fit her presentation into the time
allotted, however she had some very good points and statistics … the
impacts on children, and then blurring of lines in cyberspace … have
got to be causing long-term effects in society that we have yet to see.

Daniel Amen, MD @ AC2005

Daniel started off with a very interesting story about what they have
learned by brain scans. He talked about a patient where they did
a brain scan – exploring some severe martial issues – and found what
appeared to be a brain with bad “toxicity”. He indicated this was
equivilent to heavy drug abuse or alcohol abuse. The man, and his
wife, indicated there was no way he did either of these. What he
found after numerous conversations is that

He has imaged numerous criminals including murderers, and to him there
are obvious patterns. He is amazed at the ignorance demonstrated
when brain imaging in not used to diagnose mental health.

All of his clinics work is based on 9 very simple principals:

  • The brain is involved in everything you do.
  • When your brain works right, you work right. When your brain doesn’t work right, you have trouble.
  • Brain is the most complex organ – 100b neurons, trillion supporting cells
  • Brain is very soft, housed in a hard skull – brain injuries matter!
  • One size does not fit everyone – most problems are not single or simple disorders
  • Brain imaging can be very helpful – how do you know unless you look?
  • The brain can change – right interventions help, wrong interventions hurt!
  • Myth of the perfect brain – we all need a little help …
  • Brain is not completely developed until age 25 – myelinization occurs to optimize operation

SPECT – single photon
emission computed tomography – is how they do their brain
imaging.  What he has found is that once people get an image of
their brain they begin to explore other ways to continue to improve
their brain.  Many of these methods are alternative medicine and
supplements.  He showed a series of amazing images of healthy brains, stroke victims, alzheimers, and various head injuries.

He indicated the core value is the ability to specifically target
treatments, explain behavior, and predict future issues.  It also
removes the stigma of “mental illness” … as it is now a physical
medical condition that can be treated through known science.

Psychiatrists are the only medical specialists who rarely look at the organ
they treat. The odds are that if a patient is having serious problems with
feelings (eg, depression), thoughts (eg, schizophrenia), or behavior (eg,
violence), the psychiatrist will never order a brain scan. He or she will
prescribe medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, or a host of
other treatments that will change brain function—but will not know which areas
of the patient’s brain work well, which areas work too hard, and which do not
work hard enough. In my opinion, the lack of brain imaging has kept psychiatry
behind medicine’s other specialties, reducing our effectiveness with patients
and hindering our efforts to reduce stigma and improve compliance.

He indicated that a brain scan costs ~$1000, with a full check up
costing ~$3200.  He said there are other things that are also
coming into this same space … one example is Journey to Wild Devine … another set are outlined on his web site – Seven Ways to Optimize your Brain.

Dileep George @ AC2005

Dileep is now starting his talk on Understanding the Neocortex to Accelerate our Understanding of Intelligence. He is one of the founders of Numenta with Jeff Hawkins. He immediately started to explore the traditional
thoughts behind AI. Ignoring biology was common place, even with
neural network research. In the 1990’s things began to change.

Now there is a groundswell of reasearch into biologically accurate
systems. Hierarchical Temporal Memory is one of these research
areas. This is a focus on the neo-cortex. He explained that:

if I opened the top of your skull, I would see your
neo-cortex. If I pulled it out, it would really be a crumpled
sheet, about 1mm thick, and you could spread it on the table. It
would look like a big thin tortilla. All of your memories from childhood on would be stored in that tortilla.

Ok … so I have a tortilla in my head! 🙂

Supporting the talk from yesterday, there is a main stream belief that
the entire sheet of the neo-cortex is based on the same replicated base
pattern. A basic neural module. So what does it do?

  • the neocortex is a memory system (hierarchical, stores sequences)
  • through exposure, it creates a model of the world (discovers causes of sensory data and how they behave)
  • recognizes inputs and predicts the future (by analogy to past events)
  • behavior is a by product of prediction (behavior and prediction are the same)

Reptilian brains do not have a neocortex. It was mammalian brains
that gained the neocortex. Initially only on the sensory side …
in humans it went even further and took control of the motor
skills. In addition it is hierarchically organized. The
hierarchy implements a series of feedback loops … each level stores
sequences of patterns. It passes a recognized pattern “up” by
name, and also predicts the next element. This prediction is then
passed “down” towards the senses to provide a reinforcing feedback loop.

Numenta is well along the way of creating artificial systems that
provide the same sort of trainable memory systems … amazing.
His demonstration showed a series of trained images – very low
resolution for now – and then he would draw on another screen and allow
the software to predict/select which image he had drawn. He
showed how the recognition was very resistent to noise, and able to
easily distinguish between similar images. It was crude … but
very impressive. He expects to see commercial solutions within 3 to 4 years.

Tom Malone @ AC2005

Tom is from MIT and is speaking on The Future of Work … and I believe that I am really going to like this talk. He is really interested in organizations
… and how Intelligence Amplification could come from organizations of
intelligent humans. I thoroughly believe this, and that he is on
the right track.

One of his first examples is the Wikipedia, and that the organization
of so many people – however loose – was an amazing feat. His
bottom line prediction is that technology is changing the whole world
of organizations in a way similar to the revolution of democracy.
He feels that the costs of communications are the core element,
allowing the individual to have access to vast amounts of information
which allows for individual choice … over top down management.

His next example was eBay.  Amazing stats:

$3.3 Billion revenue in 2004
~430,000 people make their living from selling on ebay
If these were employees, they would be one fo the 5 largest employers

What eBay has attained is to reinvent the right kind of infrastructure
and community to invent a whole new kind of retailing.  He feels
this is the next logical stage of a pattern that has been repeated
throughout history.  These stages have been:

  • Bands – decentralized, unconnected
  • Kingdoms – centralized
  • Democracies – decentralized, connected

He feels that transitions between stages are based on the declining
costs of communications.  The more that decision making
information can be decentralized to the edges, the more efficient and
valuable the organization becomes.

He had some interesting examples of how democratic principals are slowly entering into leading companies:

  • W.L. Gore – managers become managers by finding people who want to work for them
  • Visa International – independent banks vote on policy questions
  • Mondragon Cooperative Corp – employees elect the board of directors and vote on key issues

Markets are another way that this revolution is taking place. 
Outsourcing is one type of market … creating the e-lance
economy.  Funny that Elance
is a web site that actually implements this idea.  I have friends
who have used Elance teams to do software development … from Sri
Lanka and India.  Intel has apparently been exploring the use of futures markets within their manufacturing to manage manufacturing capacity.

MIT developed a Process Handbook
with over 5000 processes and activities that can be used for planning
purposes within organizations.  They are looking to create an Open
Source version.

He showed the classic self-organizing humans demonstration … the interactive media solution by Cinematrix
It demonstrates – with the flight simulator example that he showed –
that there is a real power in collective human organizations that have
simultaneous access to the same data.

Mark Finnern @ AC2005

Mark works for SAP and runs their developer program … he’s been there
a long time, and is a long time futurist.  His Introduction to
Intelligence Amplification started with a number of slides covering
thoughts by John Taylor Gatto.  Gatto posits that there is a Fourth Purpose
behind institutional education.  He feels that the current design
of the system is flawed, and more interested in teaching consumerism
than anything else.  All of this proposes that there is a better
way to educate, and maybe different things that we ought to be
educating about.

John Smart @ AC2005

John wrapped up the evening (beginning his talk at 11:21pm!) on How to Be a Tech Futurist …

1. Introduction
2. Universal Assumptions
3. Two Processes of Change:  Evolution and Development
4. Introduction to Accelerating Change
5. Prediction:  Expecting the Future
6. Management: Thriving with Change
7. Creation:  Making the Future

His talk reviewed how “futurism” is slowly becoming a real science …
a real area of study.  With the current states of Future Studies
(2 US Graduate Programs), Science and Technology Studies (30+ US
programs), and Technology Roadmapping (5 US programs + 1 PhD) there is
a growing movement in the right direction.

There were a couple of very interesting references that I hadn’t seen
yet.  One of them was the Shell report on energy consuption called
Energy Needs, Choices, and Possibilities:  Scenarios to 2050
… a very interesting analysis showing the relationship between per
capita income and energy consumption.  When combined with the
flattening of population on earth (estimated by the UN in their 2002 revision) is seems that many of the fears of past decades ar not going occur.

John is always amazing to hear … too many facts and references … I’ll be reading for weeks!

Jamais Cascio @ AC2005

I have to admit that I am geting tired, and really just wanted to
listen to this presentation and not think about blogging.  The Participatory Panopticon
was the theme … and it was a great talk … well presented … on the
future world of always on cameras.  Jamais is a very good
presenter …

Cory Ondrejka @ AC2005

Wow … Cory is one of the most important figures behind Second Life is here with his presentation Why Games Will Save the World. 
It is always interesting to see the slides that attempt to communicate
important ideas by bashing certain people and conversations … I was a
little disappointed by that.  But he did get into the core of
using gaming for education.  It was a good talk with a lot of interesting sounds bites and examples of the values of game playing.