Friday, December 30, 2005

More With Less

Recently Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT media lab announced the initiative to build a $100 computer. Why haven’t we done this before with other things? There is a quote from Einstein that seems to fit: "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction". Ever look at a house and think to yourself, how could that pile of sheet rock and lumber be worth $100,000 dollars? Would you live in a house that did almost everything a normal house did but only cost $10,000 dollars? What would you do with the other $90,000 dollars? Would you work less and have more free time? Isn’t innovation great?

Inevitable Power

Technology will progress and information about it will become free and accessible to all who seek it. So what will happen if everyone can make a bomb, a missile, a poison, a biological weapon ? If you take the society of today and give it the technology of tomorrow it will be a very dangerous place to live, perhaps to the point of oblivion. So one thing has to change, society or the availability of hazardous information. Police states work nicely for keeping information under wraps, but they are not very fun to live in and they are easily corrupted. You could abolish all privacy, make all private information, and private spaces in homes and offices accessible to anyone at anytime, kind of a police state of nosey neighbors. But this would lead to abuses of the information. So what is left ? Some how diffuse all of the social conflict that leads to people resorting to violence to achieve their goals. Doesn’t sound easy. You can attack this problem on two fronts, conflict resolution, and the goals of people. On the conflict resolution side you need allot of skilled people that can wheel and deal and create new solutions and opportunities, both locally and globaly, kind of a hyper-creative politician /social worker. Not an easy job but necessary. The second part is the societal goals. The world is full of frustrated people with no opportunities and a limited set of ideas on how to get out of their situation, most of them not very good. So you need kind of a directory of ideas and possibilities, a vast repository of all the ideas people have of what is worth chasing, what is important, and why. And once someone has decided what they are going to set out to do, there is another directory of resources of people with similar goals, resources, businesses, books, everything. And of because all this doesn’t happen on its own, you need people and resources to go everywhere there are people in need, to build the basics, food, shelter, medical care, and education, to kick start the whole system. And if in the end, everyone hasn’t found a way to live together and resolve their differences we have lots of crime, terrorists, wars, and police states to look forward to … fun .

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ultimate Document Format

On the web there are tons of document types, pdf, html, postscript, rtf, doc, etc. As a programmer trying to get text out of these documents to make them searchable is a royal pain. What if there was one format for everything. At first it sounds cool, but then you think of what a nightmare it would be to try and standardize all the kinds of things that someone would want to put in a document and all the different ways it is viewed. So what if it wasn’t standardized and fixed? What if anyone who wanted to could make their own viewer and embed it in another format or replace an existing format. The code for rendering each embeddable format would be stored on the web and anytime you wanted to view something the viewer is downloaded and run in a secure environment ( java, managed C#, scripting language etc.). The idea isn’t a new one. You can embed all kinds of things in a word document. The thing that is new though is that the code for the viewer is not fixed and it is not monolithic. If I wanted to make a smiley face that spoke when you clicked on it, I would write the code for the smiley viewer/editor, publish the source code (open source), and then publish a document with the smiley. When someone viewed the document it would download the code to render, interact, and edit, the smiley. When they clicked on it would say its thing. Each embeddable thing would implement some baseline functions, for viewing, printing, searching, extracting text, mouse and keyboard interaction, etc. And then I’d sit back and watch the innovation happen. Ever surf a 3-D animated document that updates itself instantly anytime anyone makes a change ?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Global Debate

There is an application that is only half built in sites like delicious and wikipedia, which collect as inputs the categories of static pages and facts from multitudes of people. The world however is also filled with questions and answers and to each person a few are far more important than the others. What if everyone could collect all their questions and all their answers and debate and rank them, learn, participate, and discover. Each answer is in itself a statement of debate and linked to many questions. After a great bit of chaos the hope would be that a consensus would immerge and it would be there for all to see, more robust than any single philosophy ever has.

The World is Broken

The world is broken. There is no better task than to work to secure the necessities to live and then start to work on the great repair. There will be no prize felt more than making a fix to the world, no enjoyment of wealth or pleasure will come close to the lasting gratitude of millions through the subsequent ages, much as we are greatfull for freedom, equality, education, science, health, and prosperity.

The Best Question

What is the best question?

The question, the answer, searched for at the same time.

Killer Ideas

There are ideas know by a few that if known by millions would set the world on fire. The Internet will soon do just that.