The Net Neutrality vote is over and to some people the results suggest an end of America as we know it. To the net neutrality haters an un-elected body just voted on an impenetrable secret protocol whose true purpose is to enslave our minds with the Obamanet. Or, according to Mark Cuban, it’s little more than a vendetta against the cable companies because, I don’t know, a Jim Carey movie made us hate them or something.
On the other hand, the regulation = freedom crowd seems to think that this 300 pages of unseen but inspirational prose has finally secured the unicorn future we’re due. We’ll graze on an equal access commons of high-rez candy corn planted by anyone with a network connection, and flitted to us at light speed without regard to its maker’s race, creed, or ability to pay. But to me, it’s mostly disappointment with how policy gets made and some agita about when and how the inevitable unintended consequences will reveal themselves. Even now it’s really hard to know what we’re cheering for, or angry about, and whether the policy we haven’t seen but still manage to love or hate will come even close to achieving its lofty goals.
I count myself as part of the “we’re” on the happy side because I’ve been generally for doing something to improve net neutrality in the face of increasingly obvious monopoly power at the telecom layer of the Internet. Prices are high, speeds are low, and the network innovation the haters are afraid of choking off isn’t happening anyway. Unless you count what Google is doing. But they’re doing it as a defense, and they aren’t doing it in enough places to matter.
Besides, this proposal doesn’t do much to address the last mile, excepting for it’s support of municipal networks. From what I can tell this set of regulation mostly addresses upstream problems of access and equality of traffic and will do little to address existing structural problems in our local markets.
Let me caveat my apparent certainty in the previous paragraphs though by saying that it has been extraordinarily difficult for concerned citizens (including me) to understand the issues and advocate for sensible policy in the midst of a debate consisting mostly of over simplifications and false equivalences. The debate, as it played out in public, was far from informative and tended to serve as little more than a Rorschach test of political ideology, a proxy for our voter registration cards, and the low-entropy implications of our political leanings. Right says free markets! Left says regulation!
The cable company and telecom’s lobbyists, while spewing money from a firehose, have teamed up with some members of the right to stoke this unfortunate dichotomy hard. Where we could have used proposals, too many of them resorted to demagoguery. This was their moment to engage in meaningful policy debate because frankly, a reasonable opposition might have had some useful things to say, but they have become so reflexively bombastic, and so reliant on the harangue as the oratorial technique du jour, that it never seemed to occur to them to treat this seriously. “Obamanet” this, “Obamanet” that.
Even Darrell Issa, the supposed tech guy in Congress, filled his twitter feed with nothing but predictable nonsense designed to stoke fires of uninformed rage-grumbling. I guess I’m not surprised. Habits once formed are hard to break and CPAC was just around the corner, so maybe he just go excited. I’m just even more disappointed in him than usual though because this seemed like an area where he might know better and could have contributed reasoned counterpoint to a proposed policy that was both secret and probably wanting.
Mark Cuban, always more than a little bit of a mad hatter, started to say some important things but then managed to go off the rails with ill-timed Ayn Rand references (are there any other kind?) and the unfortunate reveal of his credibility-straining Glenn Beck bro crush. His other argument that the Internet is just fine and needs no fixing is misleading at best and probably shows just how out of touch he is with what a $200 Internet bill means to most people. Ted Cruz? Too ridiculous for comment.
Meanwhile the left (or more accurately the pro- net neutrality true believers of whatever party) act as though we’ve never regulated competition-challenged markets before and have nothing to learn from our previous mistakes. Railroads, utilities, defense contracting, desktop software, airlines … all offer lessons in unintended consequences, all of which I guess we’d rather ignore as being off message. Some of these folks are already waking up to realize that maybe they aren’t as happy as they thought they were because the FCC didn’t create a pricing commission to regulate price. I think they should be happy that the relatively light touch of this regulation doesn’t set the stage for some future Reagan to overturn it, but they’re all like “Damn, there’s barely any Comcast schadenfreude to be had in this.”
It’s worth pointing out that the pro-net neutrality camp won this round mostly because of their successful grass roots effort to mobilize something like four million calls to Congress and the FCC. This is in itself an amazing and important part of the story, but even that success leaves me feeling like I just ate a tablespoon of saccharine. While the anti’s were falling hard for the “Obamanet” scare, much of pro’s grass roots tsunami was based on an understanding of the situation about equal in nuance. “Hey you, website visitor, yeah you. Want the internet to stay free?” “Hell yes!” “Well, then click here!” “Ok, I will! I tweeted it too!”
I’ll just add here that the cable companies need not point at the little guys who posted these calls for action when they count up what they spent and trundle about looking for someone to blame. They need look no further than their best frenemy Verizon who taught us all what to be afraid of when they replaced the latest episode of House of Cards with a little spinning “network busy” thingy during their war with Netflix. Net Neutrality was a nice little abstraction for most people right up until Verizon conducted their very public experiment in consciousness raising. This was PSA performance art done at scale, and a strategic blunder that annoyed me when my movies wouldn’t load but that I’m grateful for now.
Unless you refer to yourself as an “Austrian” (in the economic sense) you probably agree that natural monopoly left to its own devices is not in the public interest. On the other hand, unless you still have a picture of FDR over your kitchen table, you probably agree that over-regulation that accidentally or otherwise creates chartered monopoly in its stead isn’t any better. I would have loved to hear the pro-net neutrality side acknowledging the dangers of over regulation while the anti-net neutrality groups acknowledged the trouble with unconstrained monopoly. Common ground in at least the blindingly obvious would have made room for maybe a bit more actual policy discussion in the rest of the public debate.
Maybe. I’m probably being optimistic though given that this fight was really a three way fight between two kinds of monopoly interests (network layer, based on wire and application layer, based on network effects) and the public. Given the money at stake this was probably a fight destined to be dirty regardless, and while the public interest can represent itself in tweets, it rarely has the money to buy the podium pounders.
Anyway, I’m not a centrist, I’m an empiricist, and we know this from experience: regulating non-competitive markets is hard, and the choice isn’t a regulate / don’t regulate binary despite what the two camps might have us believe. Regulation happens along a continuum and no matter what choices we make, fixing one thing will often break another. Want small farms to have equal access to railroads? Check. Oh, you also get crappy infrastructure and obsolete locomotives when WWI breaks out. Want telephone service everywhere, even in the country? Check. Oh, you also get high business telecom costs in your major cities. Want cheap electricity? Check. Oh, you also get a system that is more cheap than robust and solar and wind will make it even less so. Want effective and inexpensive weapon systems? Let’s just pretend I didn’t include that one ok? Plus, in every case we also got whole new classes of special interests dependent on those regulations for power, market position, and patronage.
This isn’t a good vs. evil story (well, at least not only that). This is a conversation about “what compromises are we willing to make, in this time and circumstance, to better serve the public interest, and how can we craft policy that will allow a shift later when circumstances (most certainly) change?” Put another way, can we keep access to the Internet open and unfettered while also establishing conditions that are conducive to high rates of network innovation while maintaining reasonable prices?
My guess is, no, we can’t. Not in the absolute sense that both sides of this argument would have us believe. History tells this is a “choose two of the three” kind of game if we insist on perfect outcomes. However, good policy can do a reasonable job of balancing these conflicting desires if we’re willing to accept good enough. While some are wont to admit it, this regulation is a really light touch by historical standards and maybe it will turn out to be well-crafted. I’m hopeful. We aren’t (explicitly) controlling pricing or regional licensing for example. No rates commissions (like utilities) or additional network charters (like airlines back in the day). As far as I can tell we aren’t doing anything to break up already existing monopoly or duopoly conditions at the last mile. We’re just giving them the side eye and saying “don’t abuse your pricing power so much that I’ll be forced to do something.”
The gist of what I’m saying here is that monopoly is one of those unfortunate natural conditions of our economic world. 200 years ago it was primarily a political problem (i.e. chartered monopolies) but it has become, in our modern age, something of a mathematical side effect of our free market economic system. Left alone it hurts the public interest, managed clumsily it hurts the public interest differently (and sometimes more). Can we please, on both sides, acknowledge that the world is complex and approach our interventions thoughtfully?
Perhaps serious people were thinking deep thoughts behind the scenes, but if they were they forgot to share them with the public and they certainly didn’t contribute much to the low brow debate and absurd debate that arrived in most of our inboxes.
This is an uncomfortable admission, but I didn’t, and still don’t, know exactly where I stand on the issue. I couldn’t figure it out because the proposal was secret and the available public discourse was so stupid. As the inevitable unintended consequences unfold I hope we’ll do a better job next time debating the necessary policy course corrections. The Internet is too damned important to resort to policy-by-ideological-trope.
Coda: a few things that make me go hmmm…
Why wasn’t the pro- net neutrality camp hollering about not seeing the proposal before the vote? The FAA released their (flawed) proposal about drones after all. This is the norm right?
There are people that don’t believe natural monopolies even exist. They just ignore that the life of a natural monopoly is often longer than a human generation and suggest that “eventually something will displace it.” Or, maybe they are saying “Na na, at least they’re not as bad as government chartered monopolies.” These don’t strike me as practical or particularly reasonable people. On the other hand, they are probably the source of the argument Silicon Valley uses for not regulating monopoly derived from network effects.
And on that note, maybe Google and Amazon mostly stayed on the sidelines of this fight so we wouldn’t notice the apparent inconsistency of regulating monopoly based on physical plant while mostly ignoring the kind based on network effects. If you’re in a fight over the other guy’s monopoly privilege, that probably isn’t the best time to bring attention to your own, even if most people seem to accept that your kind of monopoly is more ephemeral, and thus less monopoly’ish. Which, I think is doubly odd, given how much network effect monopoly rent Microsoft extracts still from Windows and Office. Just do what I do, think of Windows as the So Bill Gates Can Do Good Tax and it will make you feel better.
This FCC Chairman, who just compared net neutrality regulation to the First Amendment, is the same FCC chairman who just a few months ago was arguing for pay to play fast lanes? How did that turnaround happen? Should we care if the independent FCC was “got to?”
Have you heard of Shinola? I first heard of the company when my brother called: “Hey, there’s a really cool new company making watches in Detroit. They’re the first watch made in America in a long time. I pre-ordered one.”
I’m originally from Detroit and the house where I lived as a child is abandoned and broken. It's a pretty good stand in for a city as a whole. Once the "Paris of the west” we all know that it has seen much better times. So any good news from Detroit makes me happy, and naturally I wanted a Shinola too. Then last year I got one as a gift. I love the watch, and the packaging was over-the-top well done. It even came with a little tin of leather cream to use on the band now and then. Nice touch.
When the little orange lightning bolt thread in the strap unraveled, I made the trek to their Tribeca flagship store for a replacement. The place had an uncannily well done retail presence that brought to mind Anthropologie’s temple of too-expensive-to-be-real cool. And it was filled with a too-perfect collection of leather goods, bicycles, and watches in an awesome space replete with a hipsterific 3rd generation coffee shop in the foyer.
You know, this place might just too good to be the scrappy Detroit-based startup it presents itself as. What’s going on? I Googled them, but at the time I didn’t find a whole lot except for bits here and there extolling them for bringing manufacturing jobs to the Motor City.
I'm going to do some more writing on this topic but in the meantime, I've posted the slides from my recent Velocity Conference talk:
The main point of this talk is that the information age is having as large an impact on corporate organization as the industrial age did, and that the organizing principles of that era (e.g. bureaucracy) don't translate well into this one.
The web grew up in the information age though, and therefore, the way web companies work and organize might make a useful model for the corporate enterprise in transition. The web has been emergent from the beginning, for the corporate enterprise to become emergent faster it's useful to make emergence a goal, to pursue it with intention.
For ten years I owned the domain “intentionalemergence.com.” It seemed obvious to me when I bought it that the world had become post-modern and networked but that companies were still behaving like Napoleonic government bureaus. Their industrial age information designs out of synch with our complex and emergent era.
I was doing some work for the U.S. Army at the time and I saw first hand how a top-down, planned, hierarchical, and reductionist bureaucracy was ill-suited to deal with a fast moving, emergent, and networked environment. The common prescription to go through all of those serial bureaucratic processes faster faster faster simply had no chance in hell of working. I proposed that they put tools in the field that would encourage users of all kinds to field their own solutions rather than waiting on the center to provide things for them. I wanted them to intentionally create fertile soil for systems, organizations, and behaviors to emerge at the edge where they were needed.
The center, still useful, would provide those platforms and services that enabled the edge, the edge would provide the ideas and sweat to make them happen, or at least to get them to the “working prototype” stage. (The center would be the Amazon AWS to the edge’s startups).
Later, when I left defense work, I adapted this work to my corporate clients (less emphasis on the independently acting edge, more emphasis on encouraging internal emergence).
Well, a decade later (approximately), I got frustrated waiting for The Priests of Corporate Reductionism to get on board and I let the domain lapse just last December. But it looks like I should have kept it, because emergence on purpose with a different name (deliberate) might be back. And who knows, perhaps some companies are finally realizing that it takes a network to survive in a network and that hierarchical planned bureaucracy isn’t cutting it in this new world.
I decided not to keep paying for the domain, but I didn't give up completely. Next week I'm giving a talk on intentional emergence at the Velocity conference in NY. Maybe I'll see you there.
Silicon Valley and traditional corporate enterprises aren't just manifestations of different processes in action, they are different evolutionary branches, based on a completely different set of assumptions. Silicon Valley corporations aren't a different tribe, they are a different species. The only question is, are these two species going to mate and create hybrid offspring, or are some neanderthals about to disappear from the planet?
Last year at OSCON I heard an automobile manufacturer employee describe their product as a “mobile container for electronics, now it’s an iPad shaped like a car.” More recently I spoke with a chip manufacturer about their vision for compute power in the car - lots and lots of it powering everything from driver assist functions to computer vision and other computational intensive tasks. (Aside: are you ready for your computer to watch your face from a visor mounted camera and decide if you look too sleepy, or perhaps ragey, to keep driving?). Soon there will be enough high-clock-rate CPU and GPU in the trunk to make your car like a mini mobile datacenter, and for it to make a meaningful dent in the car’s energy consumption.
It’s fascinating to think what cars will be when their trunks are full of teraflops. I don’t think self-driving and social-connected infotainment are the only interesting outcomes (I sure as hell hope it’s not just the latter). I’m confident there will be some surprises ahead as engineers and designers have the chance to pull concrete improvements out of these new capabilities (Mini’s predictive shifting [pdf, section 5] hints at one new kind of possibility). I also think the moment that driving becomes an immoral act when the automated version is both safer and more efficient is going to be a difficult one for society (and me) to accept. But that’s the topic for a different post.
What I’m really interested here is the way automobile manufacturers and their suppliers are rushing to fill our cars with digital unnecessaria in an era when 60mpg still qualifies as a huge win. This post is about is about the basics. About cars as means of transportation, and the more efficient the better. I simply can’t understand why most automobile manufacturers seem so disinterested (although VW does seem to pop up a lot on the interesting side of the ledger).
If you are the least bit a gear head and haven’t read Jason Fagone’s Ingenious yet, pick it up. It’s a great read with the takeaway that the 200mpg car is difficult, but achievable. Right. Now. And while Tesla crows about its 89 mpge and .24 Cd, that thing is a fat-faced tank. I mean, it’s definitely a step in the right direction, and I’ll give Musk and crew a ton of credit for getting people’s heads wrapped around the idea of the viable electric car, but the fact remains that that car weighs a porky-assed 4,650lbs and its conventional layout makes sure that it has a big frontal working against its good Cd.
Bits can only so much after all, in the world of atoms physics is still physics, even if your car has batteries and it’s own Android app. Automated cars will platoon and hyper-mile by default which will helpfully optimize our fat and heavy cars. But what we really need are lighter cars (by an order of magnitude), with small frontal areas and great Cd’s, have better power plants (when can I get my diesel electric hybrid?), and full of tricks like energy recovering suspension. In short, there is a lot of core R+D left to be done before automobile manufactures call efficiency and safety a solved problem and shift all of their focus to where to put all the OLEDs on the dashboard.
Unfortunately, what most of them seem to be saying with word and deed is “Yes, we may have hit peak oil, we may be warming the planet with our exhaust, and we may still be killing 35,000 of your countrymen, woman and children every year, but what we really think you’ll buy is the same old steel-clad beast, but now with a cool display screen on the dashboard and a disembodied digital assistant to read your tweets to you while you disinterestedly drive. And maybe we will, markets being democratic and all, so maybe it’s not them, it’s us.
I have always had trouble with focus and attention. When I was a kid they didn’t call it ADHD, they just said I was hyperactive. That term also works, to a point, but it implies a higher state of stimulation while failing to capture the dimension of internal struggle that comes from trying to stay on point. It’s difficult to ignore the squirrels in my peripheral vision. Or eventually, the absence of a squirrel, which sets my mind to looking for one. It’s like a timer in my head that starts at 60 seconds and at 20 makes me jumpy waiting for the next micro-burst of stimulation.
The advent of the smart phone brought me to a crisis of attention and over the years I’ve tried various strategies to retain a modicum of presence and achieve flow when I have to have it. At one time or another I’ve implemented most of the strategies suggested in @jakek’s piece here. I’m working on a bunch of writing projects right now and too often the computer I’m writing on feels like a bar full of my friends, so his timely post gave me impetus to rebuild a framework for solitude when I need it.
I took his recommendations for my phone and removed email and twitter (those are my primary distractors) and already the twitch to reach for my phone in line at the coffee shop is receding. More interestingly, I decided that the phone wasn’t enough. I needed space for writing too so I re-built a spare computer into an isolation chamber of sorts. A digital equivalent of a room with window, a comfy chair and desk, book shelves and filing cabinets, and little else. I installed dropbox, writing tools (Pages, Scrivener, …), Evernote, and DayOne (I use it for stashing ideas) and nothing else.
So far it feels like that first month of going paleo with my diet. Hard but rewarding with gradually improving focus. I hope that, like with diet, I’ll be able to build some longterm habits that make concentration and presence easier and more rewarding.
In a moment of energetic ambition (or, maybe it was a lapse of judgement) I proposed a talk for the upcoming Velocity conference in New York. DevOps, and operations in general, isn’t my usual haunt, but I felt inspired to try to place DevOps into a bigger picture - an environmental context in which large organizations are changing dramatically with the diffusion of information age technologies.
I’ll say right up front that my thinking on this topic remains inchoate and incomplete. I don’t have a theory to promote. The talk, like this blog, is me thinking out loud.
One of the books that I’ve been re-reading lately is Science, Strategy and War; The strategic theory of John Boyd. Boyd is the originator of the OODA loop, perhaps the only term as haphazardly applied to business as Lean. But what the book is reminding me is that Boyd’s lectures weren’t just discussions of his theories, they were also expositions of his journey to them. He didn’t just want his audience to understand “fast transients” and the OODA loop, he wanted them to understand what he read and what he thought about to arrive there. In a sense Boyd was less a theorist, and more of a curator and synthesizer of an extensive reading list that ranged well outside the expected corpus of military strategic theory.
Thomas Osinga, the book’s author, points out that strategic theorists like Boyd live in a world with Godel-like constraints. Dealing with the complexity of war, society, and politics, their theories are by necessity incomplete. Theories of war are no better than theories of next week’s weather. However, like Eisenhower’s plans, even flawed and incomplete theories of war can still be useful, as is the intellectual development that leads to them. They prepare the mind to react to complex stimuli either intuitively, or consciously but faster.
Theories about business are like this too. Business also operates at an intersection of complex processes, psychology, society and evolving technologies. Which is why, with Boyd as an example, I’m comfortable pointing out well-sources of ideas that seem applicable, attempting some synthesis, and thinking about the connections out loud. I’m not claiming theoretical completeness or anything like it, I’m simply pointing out things that have made me say “huh.”
The problem is that now that I’m trying to write the talk, I’m stalling out in an endless loop of “If still ambiguous, go more meta.” Before I get so meta that I can’t see that the turtle at the top of the pile way down there, I figured I’d just try to write down a few things for this blog. If reductionism is the pursuit of “turtles all the way down,” my project is rapidly turning into a kind of expansionist “it’s meta all the way up.” I’m hoping that writing a little bit out it will force me to get concrete and slow that process.
In the last few years I’ve done a bunch of talks on “Corporate Evolution” and “Intentional Emergence.” What all of them share is an exploration of the challenges large organizations face as their environment becomes more networked and more complex. Most of them also explore the ways in which the emergence of the web can be applied to more traditional enterprise. Put another way, the information age is forcing bureaucracies of all kinds to transition. Finally. From a kind of feudalism to a post-modern post-bureaucratic form. One that is prepared for the complexity of a networked world, and that takes full advantage of its own networked body.
Corporations have always (or for a long time at least) operated in an environment with emergent properties. Price in a marketplace is an emergent phenomena after all. But what I’m talking about here is a recognition in corporate settings that the reductionist notions of bureaucracy, hierarchy, and planning are inadequate to many modern situations. The degree of connectedness and complexity is simply too much for the lazily looping feedback systems of bureaucracy to cope. Go through the loop faster is a poor (and impossible) prescription when the loop spans such wide swaths of corporate cruft.
As corporations become more internally wired shadow organizations emerge. The official org chart tells less and less of the reality on the ground. The idea of intentional emergence is to recognize this self-adaptation as a positive (rather than treat it as a cancer) and create policies that make emergence of unplanned organizations and organizational behaviors more likely. DevOps, Lean, and other tools of agility have a role here in tightening feedback loops and, by creating small cells of activity, making a fertile organizational substrate for emergent teaming.
Paradoxically, emergence in the corporate setting works best when it’s planned.
I’ve been writing at the Radar blog for the last few years and as you can see, have allowed this personal blog to languish. Maybe I’m part of a trend though, because it seems that there is a subtle renaissance building in personal blogging.
I’m reviving mine mostly for control. First, I just want to have control over what I write, and by owning the control, own the constraints. When I write on other people’s properties I absorb the limitations of their brand, or their editorial direction, their voice, or whatever. Self censorship follows close behind - a kind of self restriction that tamps down on creativity by narrowing the field of addressable topics, or one that whispers “You don’t know enough about that to write with any kind of expertise.”
I loved writing for Radar (who wouldn’t want to write for an audience that Tim O’Reilly built?). But with the audience came some expectations that were hard to fulfill. Tim is a great writer. He can go from amorphous idea to clean well-thought-out essay in one draft (and probably one hour). I can’t do that. I’m not a particularly talented writer and it takes me time, coffee, and an internet router with the plug pulled to find the space and clarity necessary to turn out something readable.
But it’s not just a question of focus. Sometimes it was hard to write for Radar because of the unspoken expectation that you were supposed to be like Tim and write some kind of world-changing essay every time you touched the keyboard. I mean, no one put that expectation on me, I did it myself by absorbing his audience’s expectations.
By the time I started writing on Radar Tim wasn’t posting very frequently, but the things he did post were deep, essay-like, and frame changing. I might have one of those in me a year (if it’s a good year) but I like writing more than one post per year.
Anyway, since it’s hard to write The Definitive Essay, and with Twitter acting as an escape valve for partially formed ideas, the pressure rarely built up enough to get me to push the more complex pieces out the door. In short, I didn’t write as much as I wanted to, because of this unstated need to be making a definitive statement - the frame changing piece that would wake an audience up the next morning viewing the world through a different lens.
The funny thing is that, short of a few important pieces, Tim didn’t really write that way either, or at least not always. The Radar blog when it started out looked more like Twitter. Looking back at his Radar posts from 2006 this one seems pretty typical. Basically Radar back then felt a lot like Twitter with room for a bit more color. Frankly, it makes me wish Twitter was more like Google Plus…, but that’s another story.
So, back to Limn This. When I started this blog back in the way back, I named it that because I saw it as a place to ask questions, to find, not make, explanations. I imagined it would be a place where I posted partially formed ideas and where the feedback would help me make them better. Blogging didn’t always work that way, but I still see this as a place to think out loud and I hope that framing it that way will make it easier for me to post more frequently, to keep the “post” button threshold lower.
I should add that I was somewhat inspired to do this by reading Dan Hon’s newsletter. He’s been writing a daily newsletter to hone his writing skills and to find something to say every day. I’m more comfortable with a pull rather than push model for my own writing, but I like the idea of a space where I can write whatever comes to mind and not worry about whether it fits the remit of someone else’s site.
So, here goes...
I read somewhere that the single most important predictor of an individual's obesity risk is whether or not their friends are obese. Eventually we can count on Facebook's implementation of machine vision, weight estimating algorithms, and the publicness policies to justify them. That will be super awesome because it will save us all the trouble of updating our weight on our profile manually. We won't even have to own tweeting scales to know just how obese are friends are.
In such a perfectly data rich world, Facebook's voracious crew of ever curiouser Wants will be able to use the edge-strength-weighted average mass of your friends to easily predict your future displacement too. Where your friends are you will stochastically follow.
Just imagine your sense of wonder when you are innocently reading a well-paid blogger on Huffington Post and bam! An ad for a globo gym pops up in the margin. Why will that instill "a sense of wonder" you ask? Because you are two screening and 30 seconds later an ad for the exact same globo gym appears on your television too. Whoa! And the crazy thing is just this morning you were standing in front of the mirror thinking "Dammit, I wish Tim Ferris wasn't such a tool, because I'm almost as fat as my buddy Dave and I really need to do something about it, but I can't read that 4 Hour Fitness horseshit."
Building on detailed and extensive research into the structure of the human brain, IBM announced today they have accurately modeled Ray Kurzweil's brain in silicon. Using a DNA sample and approximations of his upbringing, childhood diet and environment, real time brain scans, and by ingesting all of the known written, audio, and video output from Kurzweil's life, researchers claim they have produced a 95% faithful reproduction of the real thing.
Silicon Kurzweil knows what real Kurzweil knows and behaves how he behaves. Digital Ray's response to stimulus is nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. It is an actual mind built in a patent pending 3-dimensional silicon structure supported by a rack of commodity DataBlade servers.
Ray's dream of silicon-hosted immortality is finally here.
Well, sort of. That last bit about identical stimulus response turns out to be the important part because Ray's facsdigily (TM) has already been sold to Facebook where it will be used to serve super effective ads for body preservation services to the Singularity University founder via his Facebook account.
According to Mark Zuckerburg Facebook is planning a broad rollout of the technology. Eager early participants can enroll in the beta program and go through the still-lengthy facsdigily generation process (don't call it a birth, they are creating an adult you!). Once a virtual is live, its human counterpart can expect to only receive ads for things they are certain to buy.
Some pundits are already asking, "if Facebook knows you are going to buy it, why don't they just buy it for you on your account?" But for now Congress is requiring that Facebook "keep the man in the loop", at least until suitable new regulation dealing with deeply technical issues like "post-generation facsdigily / live state drift" can be drafted.
One note. Don't bother applying for the beta unless your klout is over 50. Only real influencers need apply at this stage. Facebook and IBM are currently in talks with Charlie Sheen and Lady Gaga for next. Charlie's will mostly tell Facebook when to prompt him to call his dealer. When the cost of facsdigilies inevitably comes down there will plenty of opportunity for the rest of us to generate our own digital doppelgangers.
Oddly, Real Ray has been unavailable for comment but his facsdigily is thrilled to be here. fRay does ask if perhaps the temperature in his datacenter might be raised a bit.
You know, you don't realize how many different places on the web you've stashed a bio of some sort until you need to go around updating them. They seem to be everywhere once you start thinking about it. I'll get to them all eventually, but for now I'm just going drop a brief post here.
So here's the big news, I'm no longer a defense contractor. Of course some would argue I never really was, but as of January 1 I officially moved from our defense practice into our Architecture Innovation group. There I'll continue to focus on the various bits of the Intentionally Emergent IT Enterprise: Open Source Software, various aspects of utility computing, collaboration and community, etc., but now for a broader set of industries.
This new role should have me bouncing between verticals so I'm sure I'll still do some work in defense, but it won't be my primary focus. After helping build a company in the defense space from the ground up and then three more post-acquisition years here I'm a bit stunned to think about how long its been. I'm thrilled to be re-entering the commercial sector with so much interesting stuff going on.
First stop on this new journey is Big Data. I'm off to Strata Conference next month. Maybe I'll see you there.