Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scienta est Potentia, Google est Scienta

Does Tessier Ashpool SA ring a bell? Well, it should. It is the name of one of the mega corporations in William Gibson's "Neuromancer" In a quite dystopian setting it is mega corporations that have real power on earth (and beyond).

In our present day we also see the rise of mega corporations, large industrial conglomerates spreading their tentacles into this world. For now, they are just companies, focussed on profits, but according to trendwatcher Adjiedj Bakas who predicts the future will see global mega companies turning into sovereign states.

Google Flu Trends

With the above in mind, I just came across a report on a new Google service which kind of scares me.

GOOGLE will launch a new tool that will help federal officials "track sickness"."

Flu Trends" uses search terms that people put into the web giant to figure out where influenza is heating up, and will notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in real time!

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential: "GOOGLE FLU TRENDS can never be used to identify individual users because we rely on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur each week."

Engineers will capture keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and others.

Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of influenza surveillance at CDC: "One thing we found last year when we validated this model is it tended to predict surveillance data. The data are really, really timely. They were able to tell us on a day-to-day basis the relative direction of flu activity for a given area. They were about a week ahead of us. They could be used... as early warning signal for flu activity."

Eric Schmidt, GOOGLE's chief executive vows: "From a technological perspective, it is the beginning."

Thomas Malone, professor at M.I.T.: "I think we are just scratching the surface of what's possible with collective intelligence."

Read Full Report at Drudge Report.

Scientia est potentia

In plain English this means knowledge is power. The Google octopus is slowly speading its tentacles into every corner of digital data, creating access to unprecedented amounts of corporate and private knowledge. Creating access, not only opening up access to this knowledge to the public, but also acquiring this knowledge itself more or less, comprising it into a collective intelligence.

Does this mean that when Google holds the key to the knowledge of the world, Google holds the key to the seats of power in this world as well?

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential:

This specific sentence should turn on the alarmbells. We've fought so hard to tear down the walls of domination from Microsoft, sueing them in every way to prevent them from gaining market domination. Yet when Google is working closely with governments, will it make those governments blind to the level of domination Google already has?

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

In a world...

"In a world where man fought machine... and machine won...".

Imagine this to be the opening line of a movie trailer, with the voice of Don Lafontaine, the king of voice-overs who just passed away, and you'll be sitting up straight, ready to watch a blockbuster movie, like Terminator - Judgement Day. Well, maybe you are. We're watching the Terminator-Google Mashup.

The Google Empire

Yesterday I blogged about the newly released Google Chrome browser ready to take on Internet Explorer and Firefox. I'm noticing I'm using Google products more and more often. It almost scares me how much I like Google products. It probably started because of my dislike of Microsoft, being too big and too dominant, but now Google itself is becoming such a monolith. Google gets into your life.

  • Google Search: They know what you do on the internet, know your interests (even your most private ones).
  • Google Mail: They get into your email, know your contacts and the contents of your mail.
  • Google Docs: Now they know even the things you don't mail and it won't be long untill the Google writer and spreadsheets move into the office space.
  • Google Android: Has the power to compete with the top producers of the mobile phone market. Now they can also follow your phone conversations and know where you are.
  • Google AdSense: They try to gigure out what you do, add sense to it and create desires in you to buy. It won't be long untill AdSense gets into your banking account to cross-advertise on every purchase you've made.
  • Google CheckOut: Now they're not only advertising you tyo buy products, they actually start making the transactions too.
  • Google Maps: Along with their mobile technology they know where you are, and where you wanna go. project this into...
  • Google Earth: and they'll have a 3D rendering of you and everything around you. It's Big Brother watching you.

It's SkyNet

Is Google turning out to be the Skynet of the present, moving towards domination? In Science Fiction and Cyberpunk novels (such as Neuromancer) we see that massive companies rule the world and have taken over command from national governments, often creating a dystopian society. The question is: "is it Science Fiction, or is it becoming reality?"

If you read Adjiedj Bakash, Hollands premier trendwatcher, it is becoming reality. he observes the birth of a new economic world order as one of the big megatrends of the next decade. I'm not sure if we're there yet, but it's starting to look very creepy with Google at the helm. Maybe it isn't Paradise lost yet, but it sure is Privacy Lost.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Adjiedj Bakas: Megatrends

Yesterday I went to the Vint Technology update. Vint is Sogeti's research institute which does research in new trends and technology. This year Vint received the Computable award for ICT research and opened up shop with our colleagues in France, Sweden and the USA.

Yesterday's speaker was Adjiedj Bakas, one of Europes Megatrendwatchers who gave us a view into the future. He adressed some 9 megatrends ranging from a 'world without oil' to a 'shift in power'. Here are just a few thoughts from that presentation:

Shift happens

One of the trends we're going to see in the near future is a shift in balance. Geographical nations will change into new communities. National identity will shift to corporate identity as we will see the growth of some stellar companies. In many ways this trend reminds me of the dystopian society of Gibson's Neuromancer.

The Prosumer.

Technology drives us forward, be it for good or bad. The world has changed through technology:

  • We used to book our flight tickets at a travel agency and receive the ticket at home. Now we book online, have to print our e-ticket ourselves and check in online. Did it make prices drop? No, it just gave the industry a better margin.

  • We're seeing unmanned cashregisters appear. Do the prices of groceries drop? Nope, it just gives the company a better margin.

  • We used to go to banks to make a cash withdrawal. Now we've got cashmachines and we draw our money from the wall. It didn't get cheaper for us.

It is sold to us as extra service while the business actually crowdsources its workload to the consumer. We are getting prosumers.

Energy Consumption

Under pressure, everything becomes liquid. Although we've only used about a quarter of our oil reserves yet, we do have an energy and environmental problem. We'll see new technology in the very near future that will reduce energy consumption.

  • In the next two years we will see the ECO-Hummer, a CO2 eating humvee (Hummer 02).

  • We'll see a shift in building. For instance look at the Burj Al-Taqa Energy Tower in Dubai, this commercial high rise will produce zero emissions and use sun, wind and water to create all of its own energy and more, enough clean energy for 10 others.

  • EasyJet, one of Europes price-fighting airline companies has designed a new jet which it will take into production next year, as well as Boeing.

  • British Petrol is working on creating a new enzyme that produces oil (project stalled due to ethical discussion with the Vatican), whereas Shell is working on oil producing fungy.

The Orient

Do not underestimate the power of the Asian world. Just being statistical: China has more high-IQ kids than the US has kids in total. For every 20 kids born in the USA, about 250 are born in China and 350 in India. Do not overestimate the power of China either: Up till the industrial revelution, China has always been good for about 30% of the world economy. They just had a dip and are working their way back to where they belong. Yet in these times, when China had 30% of the world economy, the Netherlands still managed to have its Golden Age. We just have to do the right things.

A random thought (I forgot which trend it belonged to)

If you read the New York Times you'll get more information in a week than the average guy got in his entire lifetime in the 18th century. This year we're producing about 1.5 exabytes of information, which is more than we've done in the past 5,000 years.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Gibson: Really bad hair and really cool shoes

I've blogged about William Gibson in Second Life before and the attempts to make a movie of hist bestselling cyberpunk cultnovel Neuromancer, but here's an interview with him commenting on Second Life

Produced by: Darren Alexander and Ian Daffern

"An interview with author William Gibson about his recent encounters with virtual worlds, following a publicity event in Second Life for his book Spook Country"

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Neuromancer the Movie

Not so long ago I wrote a little something on Gibson's Neuromancer. Now I just discovered a nice little clip on YouTube:

Neuromancer... the movie. Would be cool to watch.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Æon Flux

Yesterday, after finishing Neuromancer I had to blow of some steam and watched the Æon Flux dvd with Mrs. V.
Æon Flux is the main character of this story, played by Charlize Theron and is largely about a Utopia gone wrong (i.e. dystopia)

The plot is very basic; The world is destroyed (in 2011) and only 1% of humanity survives in the city of Bregna. The city is being led by the Goodchild dynasty for 400 years and it's about 2400 when the people of Bregna start to revolt. At least, a small group called the Monicans. Aeon is sent on a mission to kill dr. Trevor Goodkind and they fall in love, and save the world.

Well, actually, there's a bit more to it (but don't wanna put up the spoilers), making it a good watch after all.

The movie is not an original, but an adaptation of the original animation series that aired on MTV in the early 90's

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Gibsons' Neuromancer

It's been a quiet week at the MindBlizzard blog. Partly because I've been really busy doing a very volatile project in Real Life, but also because I've spend some time rereading the excellent Neuromancer story by William Gibson.

Neuromancer is a must read, or as Daily Tech's Kristopher Kubicki said: "I should preface by saying anyone who hasn't read William Gibson's Neuromancer should run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy."

Gibson is often seen as the "godfather" of the cyberpunk genre as he started using terms like matrix and cyberspace in his first novel Neuromancer.

Neuromancer is about a hacker, or cyber cowboy named Henry Dorsett Case. Case screwed up a job and his employers got back at him, leaving him half dead and unable to gain access to the matrix again. After a life in the ghetto filled with all sorts of dealings and drugs he's recruited by enormously powerfull people to pull an almost impossible trick. The novel exlores Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Worlds, Genetic Engineering and the rise of the (Cyberpunk trademark) multinational mega corporatioins.

I just noticed an interesting article at Daily Tech, dating march 9 2007 on Sony's virtual platform Home and Neuromancer's 25th birthday. It's called PlayStation Home: William Gibson's Vision Realized written by the aforementioned Kristopher Kubicki. Here's a quote from the article:

"Nearly 25 years in the making, is Sony building the foundations for ubiquitous virtual reality?"


"It's not to say Sony overnight duplicated what Gibson has been writing about for 25 years. Even many of Gibson's ideas are not unique, just evolutionary advances on older ideas. What makes me excited about Sony's announcement is that PlayStation Home will be the first ubiquitous virtual reality, if Sony can pull it off.

Now, I should give Second Life some credit here as well. If anything, Second Life is actually closer to Gibson's descriptions of the matrix -- yep, Gibson called it the matrix 15 years before The Matrix and a decade before Ghost in the Shell. The difference between Second Life and Playstation Home is that Sony wants the interaction between virtual and reality to be transparent, especially with media and the internet. Gibson anticipated this dozens of times over the last 25 years in his novels.

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