Friday, August 30, 2013

IBM Sense-to-Sense on a Technology Paradox

IBM is working to quantify the very physical things that define what it is we sense - hear, see, taste, feel and smell - and how we actually sense it.  It thereby speaks to a fundamental paradox in technology:  To surpass the human limits in capability, and to mimic the most fundamental of human capability.  

IBM isn't the first technology firm to do this.  CEO Ginni Rometty speaks about cognitive computing, and my take on this is indeed that paradox.  Truth be told, technology is a long way off from being able to function in the sophisticated ways that a human brain does.  But along with Google and maybe Microsoft, I am confident that IBM will eventually get there.    

Thank you for reading and watching, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Kevin Spacey Challenges the TV Industry

Just in case you haven't watched this, now is the time to do so!  Highly regarded actor Kevin Spacey speaks about radically changing media and technology, and challenges the TV industry to listen up or else be irrelevant. This will be one of the more iconic speeches we'll hear about how our world is so different now.

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"Spacey, who gave the keynote James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival this evening [August 23rd], said: "Clearly the success of the Netflix model -- releasing the entire season of House Of Cards at once - has proved one thing: the audience wants control. They want freedom. If they want to binge - as they've been doing on House Of Cards - then we should let them binge."

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[Spacey] said that way of working "demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn't learn -- give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they'll more likely pay for it rather than steal it".
There is more to what Spacey is doing:  

Jameson Irish Whiskey has partnered with Kevin Spacey and his production company, Trigger Street Productions (The Social Network and 21), to discover up-and-coming talent from America, Russia and South Africa. In the search for fresh, fearless film makers, Jameson invite you to take center stage and enter a short film competition with a once-in-a-lifetime prize like no other. One where you call the shots, direct Willem Dafoe and have the backing of an award-winning production company. If you believe you have the talent but have yet to get your big break, Jameson First Shot is the competition you've been waiting for.

Since the time I began to conceive Dr. Ron Art - my multimedia arts projects, across genres - I saw creativity and commerce as two sides of the same coin.  Unless they have the fortune of creating without need for income, artists know full well that they have to navigate and reconcile both sides.  They have to put food on the table, no matter what.  That's what Jameson First Shot is all about.  

But more than that, Spacey is among just a few in Hollywood who are embracing the wild-and-crazy new media and technology at our disposal and the tectonic changes this has heralded.  Highers-up in the TV industry may sit pat, for now, with their business models and so-called best practices.  For now, TV has withstood the initial, even predatory forays of new media.  But mark Spacey's words:  The Netflix model will be the sign post of the coming future.  It already is.  

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Most Underrated Science-Fiction Masterpieces

Science-fiction is out of this world.  I led a small group of classmates in 7th grade, in creating a bulletin-board display that encouraged us to read more science-fiction.  So I must've loved it, since I was a boy. 

More than ever, I am intrigued by the fictional drama behind the science and by the scientific reality behind the fiction - more broadly STEM:  science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Except for "The Fountain," I hadn't seen The Five Underrated Sci-Fi Movie Masterpieces.  But I'm excited to watch them.

Thank you for watching, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Odds Against our Voice Being Heard

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Super Savvy Business posted this graphic on Google+ today.  The following is the exchange between us:

"Say what they're thinking," absolutely. "Have their voice be heard," maybe. 
+Ron Villejo why maybe? I think they can make their voice be heard by lots and lots of people... You just need to tap into the right resources (i.e. strategic alliances, online communities, etc.). After all, we're doing the same here on G+, right? :)
+Super Savvy Business Anyone of the 1+ billion on Facebook can post, comment, and like at any time. So even all at once everyone of them can voice what they're thinking.

However, the converse is a different matter altogether. That is, the likelihood of any one post, comment or like being heard, seen or listened to is a tiny fraction. It is virtually impossible for all 1+ billion members to come across every single post etc.

Now, if you're a paying advertiser, then of course Facebook can position your post (e.g., a promotion) in front of many more on the site, using their algorithms. So the likelihood of your target audience coming across your post is a bit greater than a tiny fraction.

It's the sheer volume of posts, matched with the real human limits in cognition, perception and interest, that makes it virtually unlikely that any single "voice" will be heard.

Add Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, plus TV and radio, into the mix, and there is an even more staggering competition and demand for our attention. How much of anyone's voice can we truly hear? Not much, really.
Mark Zuckerberg says what he says, because it's promotional and it's motivating. But it's only half true, at best.   

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, August 26, 2013

Technology Capture of Space and Objects

Vicky Gallardo shared a bit from BBC News on Google+:
Laser (LiDAR) technology helps capture the now-closed Shipping Galleries of the London Science Museum for virtual visitations. Do not miss the video at the link. Absolutely amazing!
LiDAR refers to Laser Interferometry Detection and Ranging, and in general is used to scope out space and objects in that space, such as making high-resolution maps.

In turn, I followed suit and shared it:  (1) Definitely an awesome video +Vicky Gallardo. In a way, it's technological bridge from the old Shipping Galleries, to the new exhibits at the Science Museum. I wonder if the Google Art Project also uses this LiDAR technology.

(2) The 3D LiDAR technology, that was used to "capture" the Shipping Galleries in the London Science Museum (see my previous post), reminds me of some of the visuals in the film "Deja Vu."

Google Art Project
(3) Moreover, the 3D LiDAR technology reminds me of Google Art Project, which offers us a virtual (3D) tour of art museums and allows us to see art pieces from all of angles and distances.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, August 23, 2013

McKinsey Eyes IT Trends for Business

When I moved to Dubai in 2006, officials were just catching on to the fact that infrastructure - streets, highways and paths - seriously lagged the crazy-rapid development of office complexes, residential high rises, and luxury hotels.  Result:  Traffic snarls, causing delays, aggravation and accidents.

This recognition was better late than never.  But I remember telling friends and colleagues that the build-up of its infrastructure had to be geometric, rather than arithmetic.  In the pre-recession era of the past decade, the development was an unrelenting army of cranes, noise and dust.  What this meant was, Dubai had to aim way ahead with its infrastructure build-up.

Let's suppose that the complex interchanges on Sheikh Zayed Road, near the Dubai Mall and Dusit Hotel, were a three-year project.  The build-up must account for how this area was going to look in 2009, knowing the city would keep developing, and not satisfy itself with catching up to how the area was to date (i.e., 2006).  If the city were to stick with an arithmetic build-up, it would actually fall further behind.

So is technology, too, a geometric progression.

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Or at least I thought technology was a geometric progression.

Consider Ten IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead from McKinsey Quarterly:  
Three years ago, we described ten information technology-enabled business trends that were profoundly altering the business landscape.  The pace of technology change, innovation, and business adoption since then has been stunning. Consider that the world’s stock of data is now doubling every 20 months; the number of Internet-connected devices has reached 12 billion; and payments by mobile phone are hurtling toward the $1 trillion mark.
As some point the geometric curve becomes vertical, and reaches its asymptote.  Practically speaking, I wondered, what additional progress can technology make?  My reasoning isn't quite logical, really, because my initial thought had to be re-examined.

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Now I believe technology progression is more like this model of string theory, which argues that the universe has way more than three dimensions.  Eleven, I believe.

1.  Joining the social matrix
Social technologies are much more than a consumer phenomenon: they connect many organizations internally and increasingly reach outside their borders. The social matrix also extends beyond the cocreation of products and the organizational networks we examined in our 2010 article. Now it has become the environment in which more and more business is conducted. Many organizations rely on distributed problem solving, tapping the brain power of customers and experts from within and outside the company for breakthrough thinking.
McKinsey referring to this trend as matrix is instructive and brilliant.  You see, in advancing string theory, some physicists prefer to call it matrix theory or simply M theory.  Moreover, it makes me think about the complex future of the Matrix film trilogy.

Physicists' observations and formulations are absent of human beings.  But in point of fact, our cosmos is suffused with people.  More specifically, I mean two things:  One, the physical reality includes us.  Two,  the physical reality can only - I repeat, only - be understood, explained and formulated from a human standpoint.

So perhaps McKinsey unwittingly, in my line of thinking, advanced string theory - and a several-dimensional universe - by calling it social matrix.

2.  Competing with "big data" and advanced analytics
Three years ago, we described new opportunities to experiment with and segment consumer markets using big data. As with the social matrix, we now see data and analytics as part of a new foundation for competitiveness. Global data volumes - surging from social Web sites, sensors, smartphones, and more - are doubling faster than every two years.  The power of analytics is rising while costs are falling. Data visualization, wireless communications, and cloud infrastructure are extending the power and reach of information.
Because of that geometric progression, big data has rushed forward, far faster than the majority of us can keep up with.  From company employees generating data, to everyday users like us generating data, to machines generating data, we have so much at our disposal that Google, for one, will have amassed a volume that exceeds a googol and therefore will need to rebrand itself around a new name!

But he main issue here, paradoxically enough, is not the quantitative or technological stuff, but rather something else that McKinsey rightfully points out (albeit pedantically) but falls short of crystallizing:
Planning must extend beyond data strategy to encompass needed changes in organization and culture, the design of analytic and visualization tools frontline managers can use effectively, and the recruitment of scarce data scientists (which may require creative approaches, such as partnering with universities). Decisions about where corporate capabilities should reside, how external data will be merged with propriety information, and how to instill a culture of data-driven experimentation are becoming major leadership issues.
The main issue, then?  People.  Organization and culture, frontline managers, and data scientists are, the last time I checked, irrevocably people.

3.  Deploying the Internet of (all) Things
Tiny sensors and actuators, proliferating at astounding rates, are expected to explode in number over the next decade, potentially linking over 50 billion physical entities as costs plummet and networks become more pervasive. What we described as nascent three years ago is fast becoming ubiquitous, which gives managers unimagined possibilities to fine-tune processes and manage operations.
Ivan Poupyrev
After reading this part of the McKinsey article, consider Ivan Poupyrev - The Inventor of the Midas Touch (emphasis, added):
Every time you touch your iPhone's screen, you create a circuit, and a small jolt of electricity shoots through your skin. As a result, your screen knows just where you touched it. Ivan Poupyrev had a theory: What if he sent a broad spectrum of AC current through everyday objects? Would those objects be able to sense touch? The answer is yes, and Touche is the sensor system developed by Poupyrev and his team at Disney to do it.
Connect Touche to a living orchid and the plant's entire skin becomes touch-sensitive just like a smartphone screen; attach it to a computer-music program and you can play the flower like a violin. Touche is compatible with almost any object you can grab--wooden tables, metal sculptures, water tanks, even breathing humans. Touche could make every square inch of Disney World responsive to touch--and open up a world of possibility for connecting objects to the Internet. "My long-term vision," Poupyrev says, "is making the entire world interactive."
4.  Offering anything as a service
This model is spreading beyond IT as a range of companies test ways to monetize underused assets by transforming them into services, benefitting corporate buyers that can sidestep owning them. Companies with trucking fleets, for instance, are creating new B2B businesses renting out idle vehicles by the day or the hour. And a growing number of companies with excess office space are finding that they can generate revenue by offering space for short-term uses. The Los Angeles Times has rented space to film crews, for example. Cloud-based online services are feeding the trend both by facilitating remote-work patterns that free up space and by connecting that space with organizations which need it.
While we and others have written about the importance of cloud-based IT services for some time, the potential impact of this trend is in its early stages. Companies have much to discover about the efficiencies and flexibility possible through re-envisioning their assets, whether that entails shifting from capital ownership to “expensed” services or assembling assets to play in this arena, as has done by offering server capacity to a range of businesses. Moreover, an understanding of what’s most amenable to being delivered as a service is still evolving—as are the attitudes and appetites of buyers. Thus, much of the disruption lies ahead.
Steve Case
Consider How Steve Case and His Company are Driving the Sharing Economy, and it bears a striking resemblance to this trend (emphasis, added):
A luxury-home network. A car-sharing company. An explosive deal site. Maybe you see three random ideas. Case and his team saw three bets that paid off thanks to a new Web economy that promotes power in numbers and access over ownership. The so-called sharing economy has taken off in the Great Recession, as companies like Netflix and Zipcar have allowed the exchange of DVDs, cars, clothes, couches, and even kitchen utensils. The promise of a post-ownership society is that we can do more, own less, and rent the rest with Web-enabled companies. That's a huge break for cash-strapped families in a weak recovery.
I am reminded, too, that before there was an oil and gas industry, there was only the oil industry.  Decades ago, oil producers saw natural gas as waste that came out of extracting oil from the ground.  In fact, to get rid of this waste, they burned it.  They realized, of course, that this natural resource was another product in their business.

So are idle trucks, unused offices and spare capacity.

5.  Automating knowledge work
Physical labor and transactional tasks have been widely automated over the last three decades. Now advances in data analytics, low-cost computer power, machine learning, and interfaces that “understand” humans are moving the automation frontier rapidly toward the world’s more than 200 million knowledge workers.
To wit, consider what IBM has been working on.  Computers have the capacity to generate, process and analyze a volume of data that in time will reach googol levels.  Yet, they haven't quite matched the overall sophistication of the human brain.  They will, as I am confident about IBM's intelligence and research.

In fact, McKinsey referenced IBM as well:  
Signaling a new milepost in the quest for artificial intelligence, IBM’s Jeopardy-winning computer Watson has turned its attention to cancer research. Watson “trained” for the work by reading more than 600,000 medical-evidence reports, 1.5 million patient records, and 2.0 million pages of clinical-trial reports and medical-journal articles. Now it is the backbone of a decision-support application for oncologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York.
6.  Engaging the next three billion digital citizens
As incomes rise in developing nations, their citizens are becoming wired, connected by mobile computing devices, particularly smartphones that will only increase in power and versatility. Although several emerging markets have experienced double-digit growth in Internet adoption, enormous growth potential remains: India’s digital penetration is only 10 percent and China’s is around 40 percent. Rising levels of connectivity will stimulate financial inclusion, local entrepreneurship, and enormous opportunities for business.
McKinsey itself weighed in on the compelling opportunities, as well as the challenging realities of making business models work in developing markets:

McKinsey research shows that the largest companies headquartered in developed economies currently derive only 17 percent of their revenues from emerging markets, even though these markets already represent 36 percent of global GDP.

In this video, McKinsey experts Yuval Atsmon, Peter Child, Richard Dobbs, and Laxman Narasimhan offer an overview of the opportunity - and why executives are paying attention to this driver of global growth among new consumers. Find some of our best thinking on emerging markets in "Winning the $30 trillion decathlon."
7.  Charting experiences where digital meets physical
The borders of the digital and physical world have been blurring for many years as consumers learned to shop in virtual stores and to meet in virtual spaces. In those cases, the online world mirrors experiences of the physical world. Increasingly, we’re seeing an inversion as real-life activities, from shopping to factory work, become rich with digital information and as the mobile Internet and advances in natural user interfaces give the physical world digital characteristics.
A few years ago, I heard some people distinguish Facebook friends from "real" friends.  I knew what they meant, but they revealed more about themselves than about the friends they were thinly demeaning.  I responded that Facebook friends are as real as real gets, and added that over time the line between these two groups will blur.   A friend is simply a friend, regardless of where the friendship may have originated, and these friends will have both a physical and digital presence.  

For a long while, I saw the mobile phone as the device that allows Google, Apple and Facebook and others to follow us wherever we go.  But the blurring that McKinsey frames across several industries - from gaming and electronics, to retail and fashion - is fast becoming part of our everyday landscape.  Interactive displays replace signage or posters, and prompt us to order groceries or to check a website for deals.

In other words, "Minority Report" becomes Minority Reality:  

8. ‘Freeing’ your business model through Internet-inspired personalization and simplification
Indeed, users will probably never pay for many valuable technology-enabled services, such as search - and the list seems to be growing rapidly. Providers of these “free” services will need to innovate with alternative business models. The most successful are likely to be multi-sided ones, which tap large profit pools that can be generated from information gathered by an adjacent free activity that’s commercially relevant. A familiar example is Google’s policy of offering its search services free of charge while garnering revenues at the other side of the platform by selling advertising or insights into customer behavior. In a world of free, the hunt is on for such monetization ideas. More and more companies, for example, are exploring opportunities to sell to third parties or to create new services based on sanitized information (“exhaust data”).
We as consumers are well-positioned to demand, because there is such competition for our wallets.  We want products and services that are quality, working and free.  Plus, we want it all now.  At the same time, we consumers must keep the score in mind, that is, the broader context in which we live and work.  Sure, Facebook is entirely free to use, but an inviolable give-and-take is part of the deal:  We officially give this site license to use our information for advertising purposes.  In-video ads on YouTube seem to annoy a lot of people, but not me.  The site is a phenomenal wealth of learning, entertainment and sports, and YouTube gives us the option of skipping or clicking off these ads.  Google search, same.  Free, but we formally agreed to let Google pose ads.

In other words:

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9. Buying and selling as digital commerce leaps ahead
New mobile-commerce platforms that manage transactions can offer customers the option of paying with credit credentials they established for other merchants. The mobile-payments provider Square offers customers using its service access to their sales data from any transaction and allows them to set up customer-loyalty programs easily.
This trend will become more striking over the next decade or so: 600 cities, most in emerging markets, will account for roughly two-thirds of the world’s GDP growth. One likely consequence for fast-growing cities will be the rapid development of dense, digitally enabled commerce—new, highly evolved ecosystems combining devices, payment systems, digital and technology infrastructure, and logistics.
I volunteered at a networking event one time, and used Square to sell books and receive payments.  The app was easy to download onto my iPhone, and after attaching a small device I was ready to go.  It was easy to swipe a credit card, and complete the sale right on the iPhone.

Square "reader"
The easier it is to do commerce, the better it is for both merchant and customer.  Clearly we've advanced beyond website e-commerce, and slid into that physical-digital space where business is at.

10. Transforming government, health care, and education 
The private sector has a big stake in the successful transformation of government, health care, and education, which together account for a third of global GDP. They have lagged behind in productivity growth at least in part because they have been slow to adopt Web-based platforms, big-data analytics, and other IT innovations. Technology-enabled productivity growth could help reduce the cost burden while improving the quality of services and outcomes, as well as boosting long-term global-growth prospects.
Enter:  IBM, and its smarter planet (city) campaign:

Bob Morison was a speaker at an IBM Analytics Summit in Chicago earlier this year, and he said it best:  We (project leaders, management consultants et al.) must build capability and appetite for analytics in the organization.  It is so easy to get enamored with, and caught up in, the sophisticated technology, that we forget that people are, and will always be, at the heart of any IT-enabled business trend.

So let's heed what Morison said.

To wit, a key implication that McKinsey identified has to do with people:
Talent. The rising economic and business impact of information technology means that competition will heat up for graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the STEM fields, where job growth is likely to be about 1.7 times faster than it will be in other areas. As the automation of knowledge work gains momentum, and computers start handling a growing number of tasks now performed by knowledge workers, some midlevel ones will probably be displaced and people with higher-level skills will become more important. Providing new forms of training to upgrade knowledge workers’ capabilities and rethinking the nature of public education will be critical priorities for business and government leaders.
I've positioned social media as an imperative for top leaders, so is its brethren:  IT, technology, communications.  They must keep hovering attention over the current landscape and these emerging trends, while being ready to zero-in on particular matters that impact their business.  They must learn, and keep learning, which is less about formal schooling or seminars, but more about a curious, inquisitive and reflective mind.  No one can know for certain what is up ahead, and rote knowledge about this market, or that competition, or even this system may not do any good, if the landscape keeps shifting and evolving.  Like sports teams, they must have a game plan, but acknowledge the fact that the game will dictate how, or even if, they should execute on that plan.    

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, August 16, 2013

Teens as a Technology Force

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Martin Cisneros posted this on Google+:
What you REALLY want kids to do with tech:-)
Let's look at what Pew research on Teens and Technology 2013 says:
  • 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
  • 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
  • 95% of teens use the internet.
  • 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home.
“The nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically — from stationary connections tied to shared desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day,” said Mary Madden, Senior Researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and co-author of the report. “In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population.”
So teens aren't just using technology and the internet a lot: They're paving the way! It makes sense, then, to harness this force and encourage them for the greater social good.  I especially like:  start conversations, change minds, and drive change.

I have a working concept in mind - Stop Bullying - and in the spirit of this terrific delineation and exhortation from Cisneros, I plan to actively engaging teens.  It's a video initiative, and one that tap into where teens are: at school, with friends, on social media, in sports, behind the car.  Let's see how I can initiate this.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Highways and Bridges in the Google Ecosystem

Dustin Stout posted on the question of Google+:  The Bridge between Social Media and Blogging today.  (a) It's a thought-provoking topic among those of us who have vested interest in the digital world, and (b) he engaged four colleagues to weigh in as well for a collaborative post.
Editor's Note: This is a collaborative post experiment by +Demian Farnworth, +Alexandra Riecke-Gonzales, +Matthew Loomis and +Dustin W. Stout. Our goal was to answer the question "Is Google+ the bridge between blogging and social media? If so, what does that mean?" We each took turns in answering those questions on a private Google+ post. All links are only to other Google+ posts. If this works out well, we may tackle more questions about this social network in the future. Thank you for your time and attention. Enjoy.
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Stout's post is just a few hours old right now, and there have been several comments from others already.  So please click on the link in the first line above to read them.

Here are mine:

+Dustin W. Stout A superb post and a great discussion, Dustin. Google+ is no more (or less) a bridge between social media and blogging than is Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

But where Google stands way head-and-shoulders over other sites is its enormous ecosystem. It has a staggering reach across sites, and with Android it follows us wherever we go, that is, with our smartphones and tablets. Remember that Google also has its own blogging platform - Blogger. So Google is more than just a bridge: It's virtually the entire landscape in which we live, work and play. Google+ and Blogger are simply pieces of that landscape. From what I understand, the reason there aren't ads on Google+ is because our data (posts, comments, +s etc) is far more valuable to Google than our AdWords or AdSense clicks.

What I also see in Google's ecosystem are highways, overpasses and bridges. Here's a little experiment I've done recently: I launched a handful of blogs on Blogger, and without posting any articles on any social site, they've already had over 1000 visits. So clearly traffic finds its way to my content via some avenue other than Google+. No doubt, Google's algorithms are actively at play here, because I do have AdSense working on my blogs.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What a Beautiful World This Will Be

IGY stands for International Geophysical Year (1957 - 1958), and is a jazzy, lyrical standout piece by Donald Fagen.  It's hard to imagine technology weaving so gracefully with music and infusing the piece with hope and joy.
Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream's in sight
You've got to admit it
At this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K. 
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free 
Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there's time
The fix is in
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we've got to win
Here at home we'll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone 
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free 
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young 
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

From 1982, fast forward 31 years:

This is hyper-cool! You know, the faster we go, the slower time gets (rf. Theory of Special Relativity).
Now, Elon Musk reveals how the Hyperloop Works. Travelling at over 700 mph, passengers would sit in a 1.35-metre-wide tube and be blasted through the 382-mile tunnel linking Los Angeles and San Francisco in just 30 minutes. It’s the most science fiction idea Musk has ever presented, yet the PayPal/Space X/Tesla founder is confident Hyperloop is very doable, and very affordable, too.

Think you're athletic? These robots beg to differ - 10 Robots That Are Way More Athletic Than You.  I love the one with great dexterity, in particular:

Finally, a sleek e-vision by Microsoft, that is more Minority Report than "Minority Report":

Super-awesome! I say, Google, Microsoft and IBM will be (even more) the major tech players of the future.
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Google Pulse on Humor and Sentiment

I read an article a couple of years ago that distinguished Google from Apple.  Wearing every bit the personality of Steve Jobs, Apple was the quintessential design master and the convergence of technology and liberal arts.  On the other hand, Google was every bit the Stanford geeks that Larry Page and Sergey Brin were, more concerned with data and algorithms than aesthetics or humanity.

The Search Stories have been around just a handful of years, but they speak to Google's sense of humor and pulse on emotion and sentiment.  To me, they strike a deft balance between telling a story simply for its human value and promoting a vanguard product that Search is.

Consider the following:  I grew up in the Philippines, and toothpaste was Colgate.  Transparent tape was Scotch Tape.  Our car was Pontiac.  This carried on to the US, where hand tissue was Kleenex.  To copy something was to Xerox it.  Now, of course, we don't say search for it, rather we say Google it.

So Google may not win any design awards anytime soon.  But if a successful brand means something that is a part of our tongue and our lexicon, then the boys from Stanford are already in the echelons of storied decades-old companies.

Enjoy these stories.  Millions of people already have.

An American finds love in Paris.

Andy's going to college. The toys are nervous. In the meantime, they discover Google.

The history of storytelling gets a new chapter. Use Google searches to tell your story. 

The world prepares for the big games that lie ahead. Are you ready for it?

A brother and sister grow up together.

A mother from Vietnam moves to America to provide the best for her son.
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, August 12, 2013

Our Quandary Between Public and Private

Adam Music posted these notes on Google+:
Here you go, +Scott Kleinberg and +Ron Villejo ... this time it's a matter of news organizations and reporters becoming the story this time via blogging.
He was referring to Reporter [Shea Allen] Fired for Posting Candid ‘Confessions’ On Her Personal Blog.  He must've seen a previous post by Kleinberg about a social media faux pas, which I commented on and wrote about as well - At Issue:  "Likes," Prayers and Tragedy. 

Kleinberg fired off his response quickly:
You know, some people are just dumb.
This one I don't care much about: "I've gone bra-less during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser."
This one I do: "My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me."
And this one: "I'm frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside."
Those things have nothing to do with expression, they have to do with admitting things that are unethical for the sake of being able to because of freedom of speech. 
You know what? I'm happy to get up close and personal with you, here and on my website. I am happy to share that I am trying to lose 20 pounds because it makes me feel healthier when I walk. And I'm happy to tell you that I really don't care for vanilla yogurt, but I'm a big fan of Harvest Peach. 
There's nothing wrong with those things. But when you post something that basically is the equivalent of a little child standing in front of her employer with her fingers in her ears yelling "na-na-na-na-na," what do you expect? 
This person gets no freedom of speech points, but she does get 20,000 stupidity points. And now her 15 minutes of fame will include something that will make her public enemy No. 1 when it comes to being hired. 
That's my take. What's yours? Great post, +Adam Music.
I weighed in,

On the one hand, this lady may just be immature and guileless (i.e., childish, as you noted +Scott Kleinberg). On the other hand, she may be quite a troubled lady who has a few things to sort out for herself. For instance, "I don’t fight for things because they serve me, I fight for them because they are right" flies in the face of stealing mail, feigning attention, and manipulating her body.

Then, again, on the third hand, this kind of confessional probably makes for great tell-it-like-it-is, Jerry-Springer blogging! Just not for ethical, professional reporting.

Many thanks for posting +Adam Music!

Our quandary between public and private
While government officials, legal authorities, and major tech CEOs duke out issues on privacy inside a high stakes ring, there is a veritable human quandary about these very issues.  It's one thing for companies to track our stuff online with illegally-inserted cookies.  It's another thing altogether for any one of us to put that stuff out there among millions and millions of  eyes!  

So we ourselves haven't just blurred that line between public and private, but also taunted it in some cases while blowing right past it.  

To wit, Jason Levy offered up thoughtful notes on the post as well:
In general, this is a very difficult line to draw, as being a public personality, whether you like it or not, your personal confessions affect the public perception of your employer - the assumed assumption in the eyes of the public is that your employer has chosen to employ you despite their prior knowledge of your confessions. Whether the public do assume that, or whether the public's assumption is in the mind of the employer is open to debate. I think the truth is that there are probably a number of people who can't handle the concept that a person can have a public and a private life that are separate, and who expect anyone in the public eye to be perfect when there is no such thing as a perfect person (perfect by whose definition, anyway?). 
The line gets blurred by blogs, which can make public certain aspects of a person's life that would traditionally remain private. No doubt over time more and more people will develop and understand the advanced concept that people can have more than one side to them. As a #therapist, one of my tasks is to help clients accept that it is ok to have multiple facets to their personality. It's ok to have parts which are analytical and logical, and other parts which are emotional and intuitive. The assumption that we should be 100% consistent all of the time is incorrect, as the brain has two pathways: one, the neural net, which comes up with an immediate intuitive answer; the other, deductive reasoning which works through each step and often comes up with a different answer. Some people need to trust their "gut" more, while some people need to learn to consider the consequences before acting! +Adam Music 
Below is Allen's tweet.  Tell the whole story, that she did apparently.  Which was telling in and of itself, because she evidently missed the professional import of the story.  Or maybe she just didn't care for it.  

Then again, as I suggested in my note to Music's post, Allen must've grasped at some level the social value of her personal revelations.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kenji and our Human Reality and Paradox

(image credit)
I'm just catching on to this bit about Kenji, the wide-eyed configuration above.  Story was, Toshiba researchers programmed the pale-green fellow to fall in love.  Which he (it) did.  But he (it) went too far:
The trouble all started when a young female intern began to spend several hours each day with Kenji, testing his systems and loading new software routines. When it came time to leave one evening, however, Kenji refused to let her out of his lab enclosure and used his bulky mechanical body to block her exit and hug her repeatedly. The intern was only able to escape after she had frantically phoned two senior staff members to come and temporarily de-activate Kenji.
This article from Reality Pod even came with a sexier yet more harrowing image:

(image credit)
We learn to be skeptical about stories like these on the internet.  Turns out, it's a fabricated story - The Truth About Kenji, the Robot Programmed to Love.
Yet the robo tall tale continues to quietly circulate around the web four years later, masquerading as blogged truth. This April Fool’s Day, when all of our feeds are brimming with gags, fictions, and jokey might-as-well-be-truths, it’s worth taking a look at how a minor, haphazard hoax has grown a rather long tail.
Not a surprise.  

The veracity of stories that a publication puts out is a big deal.  The worse that can happen, I imagine, is for them to label something as news when in fact it's a hoax.  That's an egg-in-the-face embarrassment.  So Brian Merchant, writer of the foregoing article in Motherboard, is right for digging into the story and casting veiled aspersion on the likes of Reality Pod.  

But I have two takes on this.

One, we laud truth and reality, as we should.  Yet, we seem to relish myth and fiction just as much, if not more.  Case in point:  Our love for films and plays, novels and mythology, plus makeup and photo shop.  More specifically, our fascination with sentient robots is evident in films, such as Bicentennial Man, A.I. and I, Robot.  

Why is it that data scientists, for instance, diminish gut-based decisions and instead advance Big Data and analytics?  Why is it that many of us, managers, for instance, are encouraged to think logically or objectively, as if emotion were a pox on humanity?  

Yet, in related sectors of science, we hear time and time again this aim of making robots that are human-like.  Which presumably accounts for all that make us non-robotic:  that is, subjectivity, imagination, and again emotion.  In A.I., that's the working dream of the scientist that William Hurt plays:  to create an android boy that can bond emotionally with human parents.     

Two, enter:  IBM.  

How do we get computers to behave and think and interact the way humans do?
So asks Dr. Katherine Frase, VP Industries Research, IBM.  This is not exactly a new idea, as I've argued here.  Still, IBM is planted firmly in reality and technology and I am fascinated by their work.  But this, and Frase's question in particular, are the quintessential paradox of humans.

The meta-question for IBM is, Why ask that question, that is, why aim to do that?    

What's more, the double paradox here is that Frase and her colleagues must account for, and build in, paradox in their cutting-edge technology, if in fact they aim to get computers to behave and think and interact the way humans do.  Such a built-in paradox may not be possible, or even desirable, and it may not be reconcilable in any case.

The Kenji story is simply an element of this larger human reality, aspiration, and paradox.

We are fascinated by fiction, as much as we may ridicule it.  We cast aside qualities about ourselves that we don't like, yet create machines that possess these very qualities.  We want robots that fall in love with us, when we seem to have such difficulty loving one another.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, August 9, 2013

Glass at Wimbledon and the Large Hadron Collider

Are there bears in the Catskills?
I see more clearly now, how Glass gives people greater versatility to do a lot of things.  I was looking at Glass from the perspective of an abled person that I am.  But for someone with physical limitations, like Alex Blaszczuk, who doesn't have use of her hands, Glass can be liberating indeed.

Being surrounded by greatness.  Me and Andre [Agassi]!
Bethanie Mattek-Sands is clearly an outgoing personality.  Imagine the possibilities:  not just for her, as Glass helps her prepare for Wimbledon; but also for us, who want to get a firsthand, up-close look at what a professional athlete does on and off the court.

Can you say, "Conservation of angular momentum"?
Hey, I want to bike in the Large Hadron Collider - with Glass in tow - too!

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD