The Wealth of People

Exploring Implications for Work and Identity in the Digital Environment.

Friday Thinking

Foraging for Curiosities in the Digital Environment of-for-by The Curious.


Creative Play with ideas and languaging.

Future Afford-Dancing

A future tab - hovering in the field of adjacent possibles.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Off to a 10 day Meditation Retreat

A short post today
Tomorrow I begin a 10 day meditation retreat - no talking, no reading, no writing, no digital interactions, one meal a day, nine hours of sitting.

I'll be back by 11 August 2012.

I imagine that by the time I catch up on email I will be able to make a posting about it on August 12th.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Some Thoughts on Defining Privacy and Facebook

One has to define privacy in the digital environment - and it isn't anonymity, in fact privacy was never based on nor provided by anonymity. 

Privacy is the right to 'not be interfered with' - such that any information about you that has no relevance to incurring a social harm can't be used against you. Anonymity is great for 'evil doers'. Child abusers, money launderers, serial killers all love anonymity, because it hides information that is relevant to social harm. 

In the digital environment privacy has to do with letting people have choice about how their information is used of personal conveniences and social good. As Kevin Kelly has noted "how much does the system have to know about you to really serve you well?" For example I wouldn't have to carry money, ID, credit cards if the system knew where I was all the time and I updated it regarding all my means of financial/commercial exchange. This could be hugely convenient to me. And with location data along with dna data identity theft would be a thing of the past. A person can only be in one place at a time and with dna - I would be the only me possible. 

A corollary is how much does the system have to know about you to really serve the social good'. For example, all of our dna data is there in the cloud available, along with data about how we exercise, what we eat, where we've been. Any anomalies in my dna could actually become sources of income because they offer unique research opportunities. This sort of data and analysis would be a huge benefit to us all. 

Where privacy comes into play is the necessary transparency so that I knew how my data was used and that I could have a choice in obtaining and/or sharing the benefits, With requisite alerts, I could be notified when ever anyone 'looked at or used' my data to ensure I approved, understood and mitigate the way it was being used. 

Privacy is a nuanced balance between personal and social ownership of our information to ensure personal and/or social benefit. 

What facebook is all about is using our data for profit without consideration of personal or social benefit to us. I wants to keep the data we generate in its walled garden so it can charge us and any other '3rd party' rent this data. It wants to fence a knowledge/data commons that is of great benefit personally and socially in order to 'appropriate' this commons in order to make money through rent-seeking.

Technology, Organizations and Paradigm Change

I am a true believer in the inevitability of a paradigm shift in not only our country but the world. The evidence is everywhere self-evident for those willing to see it. I very much like Kevin Kelly view of technology (a must read is his recent book "What Technology Wants"). He posits that technology is the 7th Kingdom of life. What he did is solidify a much broader and more accurate definition of technology - as something that has made us human. We have to realize that language, culture, institutions, writing are all forms of technology (technique). As McLuhan (among others) has noted - humans shape tools and tools shape humans.

All of this to emphasize how important these new technologies are in driving not just change but paradigm change. But fundamentally important enablers to the what we normally consider web 2.0 / social media technologies - cultural/institutional 'softwares'. This needs to include some serious legislative change.

A little example - the email systems we use. They are designed to interface with us using old comfortable metaphors of physical mail. We get digital envelopes that we open and answer or sort into digital cubi-holes - just as we would with physical mail. The same with the metaphors of files and filing cabinets/directories and so many more metaphors. These metaphors were profoundly important in making ICTs more approachable to all us - they minimized the types of learning we had to undertake to use these technologies.

But this approach to making things easier to learn by using familiar metaphors has a steep price. We tend to overlay these technologies upon existing institutions - essentially making it very easy to let us do the same things in very similar ways. I think of how we have overlaid these powerful network technologies upon hierarchical structures without changing the corporate hierarchy.

Now on the edges people have learned to use email in truly network ways - learning to find, form, sustain all sorts of new personal networks - networks that have also, in surreptitious way become integral to how we work. Except, it hasn't 'consciously' change the 'org chart' formal structures of how we organize/design how we will work.

Workers have learned to self-organize - but we do so 'outside' the corporate structure, outside of the formal management culture. There are many managers who 'sort of get it' but continue to see management structures as the basic traditional forms of 'property rights' accountability structures.

I'm not sure if I am being clear - but I think integral to the paradigm change necessary to the unleashing of a real gov 2.0 - one that engages citizens and harnesses the full human capital of its workers, will need institutional innovations around how we conceptualize leadership and management. Fundamentally, leadership and management entail a type of 'monocentric' decisioning structures (see Eleanor Ostrom) and this technology is most fully productive when it enables and is structured for 'self-organization'. Which by definition is antithetical to traditional concepts/metaphors/frames of management/leadership.

New concepts such as Gerald Fairtlough's 'responsible autonomy', Raimi and Wellman's concept of 'networked individualism' represent new design principles for organizational architectures of participation - coherent with the power of self-organization, social computing, contextual/competency leadership (based on the metaphors of 'object oriented programming' - which entail that the data coming in to the system determines which object takes control of the systems resource allocation process, - until the data coming in/context changes which will require a different object/set of competencies to take control).

If I can paraphrase McLuhan, I would phrase like this.

If the digital environment is the medium, then social computing is the message, entailing that modes of production must become programmable.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Flow in the Digital Environment

It is very hard to imagine the possibilities of the future without projecting today's 'institutional structures' in a way that 'colonizes' the future.
Imagine a feudal society - peasants and nobility, and they are asked 'What will these amazing new technologies bring?' The tendency (as I imagine it) would be to project that the Nobles would inevitably know what peasants had and what 'tithes' (as taxes) they could truly ask for. It would be hard for the peasant to imagine they could have equal access to view the nobles needs.
What they wouldn't have imagined is an 'impartial' justice system, market system, a public education system, health system, a banking/credit system for all, a labour force, new concepts of private property, marriage/relationship as an act of love and so much more.
When the train was first emerging many people felt that travel at 20 miles per hour would literally drive people crazy. And if surveys/studies of experiences of travelling that fast were done we would find lots of evidence of potential trauma (psycho-physio).
The same phenomena was experienced during the upheaval and turbulence of the shift from agricultural/rural to industrial/urban society - anonymity was equivalent to anomie. 
A recent book by Raimi (director of PEW research Internet and society) and Wellman (Canadian sociologist who's research the wired/non-wired community for the last 20 years)called "Networked: the New Social Operating System" talks about 'networked individualiam' as the new social operating system. I haven't finished the book yet but they propose that what is emerging is a new sphere of connectedness - beyond the close ties - loose ties sphere; the offer that we will all also have 'audience' - a deeper extension of Warhol's everyone will have 15 minutes of fame. 
Douglass North (a Noble economist) who research institutional economics - posited that the most important aspect of the shift from feudal to market-system/democratic societies was the trust market/democracy provided that enabled 'impartial exchange' over 'personalized-network exchange'. What this means is that while markets have existed since exchange was invented - these markets were highly conditional on conditions that provided protection (e.g. patronage from 'nobles'), and were based on personal networks. What market-system/democratic societies enable is trusted exchange with strangers - I can go into any store and exchange paper or 'bits' with someone I will never see again and get what I want. This was not the case in the past.
The digital environment extends these sort of impartial exchanges even further - but what enables these to progress is a 'reputation' metric. Think of reader reviews on Amazon, or rating of sellers/buyers on eBay. 
The digital environment will require new institutions of reputation, new institutions of identity (including reciprocal transparency - see David Brin's 'Transparent Society'). 
Flow, knowledge flow, impersonal exchange, persistent identity, hyper-individuality/specialization (see Malone's HBR article), hyper-exchange, interdependency, impartial exchange, new institutions, are all 'dots' in the emerging picture of the digital environment's transformation of what work will be. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Thinking - 20 July 2012 - Handbook for New Employees at Valve, some thoughts of the smart city and random bits.

In Mining the matrix this week here are some interesting articles that think are useful dots that can be connected to provide some landmarks in the topography of the emerging digital environment and economy. The order is not meant to be part of the coherence necessary to see a picture.

·        Valve’s – Handbook for New Employees
·        Smart phone sensors serving a ‘smart city’
·        The rise of the ‘Connected Viewer’ – Pew Research Report
·        Getting healthy and preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse
·        What does Internet Governance have to do with Open Data?
·        Scientific particles collide with social media to benefit of all
·        Facebook users not as satisfied as Google+ users
·        Google+ grows 43% in June – reaches 31,9 million unique visitors in the US
·        Microsoft Office 15 review: built for touch and the cloud
·        The Global Innovation Index 2012
·         Open Letter from the Broadband Commission to the G20 Leaders Meeting, June 2012

Something that was very exciting to me was this wonderful ‘Handbook For New Employees” – by the gaming company VALVE. I found this to be a great inspiration. This is something that any type of organization should consider including a science organization, which also that needs the passion of its employee to thrive and one that should encourage responsible autonomy to harness that passion in the best way. 

It’s not that all work in the future will be like working at Valve – but more work will be – simply because it enables the social computing (that is the message of the digital environment). For anyone interested in organizational culture – this is a must read.
Handbook For New Employees (links to the pdf)

Here’s the preface:
In 1996, we set out to make great games, but we knew back then that we had to first create a place that was designed to foster that greatness. A place where incredibly talented individuals are empowered to put their best work into the hands of millions of people, with very little in their way. This book is an abbreviated encapsulation of our guiding principles. As Valve continues to grow, we hope that these principles will serve each new person joining our ranks. If you are new to Valve, welcome. Although the goals in this book are important, it’s really your ideas, talent, and energy that will keep Valve shining in the years ahead.
Thanks for being here. Let’s make great things.

Here’s  their rationale - ‘Welcome to the Flatland’
Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to
control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.
But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most
intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates
99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.
That’s why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports
to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to
steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products. A flat structure removes every organizational barrier between your work and the customer enjoying that work. Every company will tell you that “the customer is boss,” but here that statement has weight. There’s no red tape stopping you from figuring out for yourself what our customers want, and then giving it to them.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of responsibility,” you’re right. And that’s why hiring is
the single most important thing you will ever do at Valve (see “Hiring ,” on page 43). Any time you interview a potential hire, you need to ask yourself not only if they’re talented or collaborative but also if they’re capable of literally running this company, because they will be.

As I said this is well worth the read.

This year I had a flash of insight that the ‘smart city’ is a fundamental disruptive technology that can plausibly evolve in the next 10-15 years (e.g. Google's launch of 'Google Fiber' in Kansas City - where a true testing of the Google Glasses could also take place). The smart city is not a single technology but the basic platform for assembling and implementing in a ‘do-able’ way the first foundation of a ubiquitous digital environment. The smart city is also a ‘right sized’ arena for the development of new institutions, and economics relevant to the digital environment. A number of drivers come together to shape and encourage the development of the smart city.
·        Demographics
o   will push the development of smart homes for better health monitoring,
o   may also push for driverless cars as pre-boomer and boomer generations continue to want driving independence and safety
o   likely to move into the city for ease of social leisure and life-style
·        The push to provide ubiquitous wifi in the city
o   A number of countries (along with the UN) have declared Internet Access a human right. The Australian Government is providing ‘fiber optic’ cable to over 90% of Australian households
o   Ubiquitous wifi enables the digital economy to expand services and enables new forms of work.
·        The rapid evolution of the smart phone, tablet and potentially an augmented reality device like Google Glasses which is supposed to become commercially available this year are opening a new domain of ‘wantables’ – data/information visualizations. What do I mean by ‘wantables’? Steve Jobs did not do a survey to assess what Apple clients wanted – they in fact did not know what was ‘wantable’ till the nano, the iPhone, and the iPad were released. Or think of 1998 Google’s first year it answered an average of about 9,000 questions a day that year (3.6 million question for the year). In 2011, Google was answering 4.7 billion question a day!!! Who knew that the ability to ask any question anytime could be a ‘wantable’. I think that customizable on-demand data visualization are the new ‘Google Questions’.

Along the lines of the smart city as a platform and data visualizations as its ‘Apps’ this article outlines several new domains of the digital environment, including – open data, participatory crowdsourcing of value creation, citizen as journalist/scientist/sensor, and of course the smart city. Thanks to Robert Merton for this article.

Street Bump App Detects Potholes
Street Bump, an Android app piloted by the City of Boston. The app, which should be available to the public this summer, makes the smartphone's accelerometer do the job of sensing potholes. If you're driving and you hit a pothole while the app is loaded, Street Bump pairs up data about the size of the bump with a GPS coordinate - and sends that to a city database….

Discouraged by the muddy data, the city decided to launch a global challenge in partnership with a group called InnoCentive. Liberty Mutual donated $25,000 in prize money for the group or groups that could use equations to distinguish between a pothole-y bump and all those other run-of-the-road vibrations.

Three winners were announced, and the city is working to implement their algorithmic solutions now….

Certainly an indication of the emerging digital environment as well as further along the line of the emergence of the smart city, here’s a new Pew research report (12 pages). The increasingly rapid transformation of the music business, print publishing, and television/film industries also provide some impetus to the emergence of a smart city. I’ve noted in the last month that Rogers (the local Cable company) no longer rents DVD’s – they expect customer to watch movies online (while also enforcing download caps).

Half of all adult cell phone owners now incorporate their mobile devices into their television watching experiences. These “connected viewers” used their cell phones for a wide range of activities during the 30 days preceding our April 2012 survey:
·         38% of cell owners used their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they were watching
·         23% used their phone to exchange text messages with someone else who was watching the same program in a different location
·         22% used their phone to check whether something they heard on television was true
·         20% used their phone to visit a website that was mentioned on television
·         11% used their phone to see what other people were saying online about a program they were watching, and 11% posted their own comments online about a program they were watching using their mobile phone
·         6% used their phone to vote for a reality show contestant
Taken together, 52% of all cell owners are “connected viewers”—meaning they use their phones while watching television for at least one of these reasons.

According to the International Telecommunications Union – at the end of 2011 there were 6 Billion mobile subscriptions (the equivalent of 87% of the world’s population – of course these subscriptions include those many people with more than one mobile subscription. As Cisco has recently predicted – by 2015 there will be 25 billion connected devices). In 2010 there were 5.4 Billion mobile subscription and in 2009 4.7 Billion.

Now how in the world can a city be smart city if it isn’t ready for the Zombie Apocalypse??? Here’s an inkling of more types of smart city apps. The 3 minute video is fun and entertaining – worth the time to watch.
Zombies, Run! is an ultra-immersive running game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Windows Phone. We deliver the story straight to your headphones through orders and voice recordings - and back home, you can build and grow your base with the items you've collected.
Run Anywhere
Zombies, Run! works anywhere and at any speed. You can jog in a park, run along a beach, or walk along a trail, even on treadmills!
Keep the survivors alive
You automatically collect items like medicine, batteries, and ammo while running - but when you're back home, who needs them more: the soldiers or the doctors? Which buildings need extra defenses? It’s up to you - and the bigger your base, the more missions you can play.

Open data can be defined by three basic requirements – accessible online, machine readable and licensed for re-use.

…. In 2009 David Eaves put forward ‘three laws of open government data‘ that describe what it takes for a dataset to be considered effectively open. They boil down to requirements that data should be accessible online, machine readable, and under licenses that permit re-use. Explore these three facets of open dataoffers one route into potential internet governance issues that need to be critically discussed if the potential benefits of open data are to be secured in equitable ways…..

This is another interesting discussion of scientist, social media and the transformation of science, publishing and more. 

IN 2008 CERN switched on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva – around the same time it sent out its first tweet. Although the first outing of the LHC didn’t go according to plan, the Twitter account gained 10,000 followers within the first day, according to James Gillies, head of communications at Cern.
Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin this week, Gillies explained the role social media plays in engaging the public with the particle physics research its laboratory does. The Twitter account now has 590,000 followers and Cern broke important news via it in March 2010 by joyously declaring: “Experiment have seen collisions.”
“Why do we communicate at Cern? If you talk to the scientists who work there they will tell you it’s a good thing to do and they all want to do it,” Gillies said, adding that Cern is publicly funded so engaging with the people who pay the bills is important…..

The social media ‘wars’ are nowhere near even beginning – as business models struggle to find the balance between close/proprietal walled-gardens/Malls versus more open models that focus on user experience. Even the Massive Multiplayer Online Games have to ensure that players are duly ‘satisfied’ with their experience or else they will immigrate – that is unless the virtual environment is so addictively game-ified that users create significant lock-in/‘sunk-costs’ that they becoming very reluctant to immigrate. 

Personally, I have left Facebook, I haven't yet closed my account but I no longer post regularly frequent my page. I love my friends/community on FB, but I can no longer let myself be harvested the way that FB is trying to reap profits from genuine relationships. I think we definitely need a new institution related to space like FB, an institution that ensures that the quality of being a public space comes with relevant rights. Malls are great - but they give me a creepy feeling of having what looks and feels like public space (with corresponding rights) becoming subverted into private property - another form of privatizing the commons. 

Facebook's reputation for customer satisfaction continues to tarnish, while Google+ pops up on a customer satisfaction index for the first time and makes it to the top of the social network pyramid.

…. "Facebook and Google+ are competing on two critical fronts: customer experience and market penetration. Google+ handily wins the former, and Facebook handily wins the latter, for now," Larry Freed, ForeSee's president and CEO, said in a statement. "It's worth asking how much customer satisfaction matters for Facebook, given its unrivaled 800 million user base. But I expect Google to leverage its multiple properties and mobile capabilities to attract users at a rapid pace. If Facebook doesn't feel the pressure to improve customer satisfaction now, that may soon change."….

And more current data from the Social Media wars.
Google+ grows 43% in June – reaches 31,9 million unique visitors in the USThe June social network traffic numbers from Compete are now available, and confirms that Google+ had a huge visitor and traffic increase in June. This month Google+ had 31,9 million visitors to it's site, compared to 22,3 million visitors in May, an increase of 43,1%.

Has gained 14,2 million visitors in 2012
Since the year started, Google+ has gained 14,2 million visitors, from 17,6 million visitors in December to 31,9 million visitors in June. For the first time, according to Compete statistics, Google+ is now larger than Linkedin, who had 24,6 million visitors in June. Linkedin had a 6,5% decrease in visitors in June compared to May.

The Social Networks
These are the social network numbers (in million visitors) for June, including the percentage change compared to May.
Facebook 158,6 (+1,0%)
YouTube 153,8 (+0,75%)
Twitter 42,6 (+0,9%)
Google+ 31,9 (+43,1%)
Linkedin 24,6 (-6,5%)
MySpace 21,9 (-8,0%)
Tumblr 21,6 (+0,1%)
Pinterest 19,4 (+0,4%)

Over 100 million worldwide visitors from desktop only?
The Compete numbers are US only and desktop only. If US still represents about 30% of the Google+ global community, as earlier statistics have shown, Google+ now has more than 100 million worldwide visitors via desktops each month.
During the Google I/O Conference in June, Google’s +Vic Gundotra announced that the Google+ mobile traffic is now larger than the desktop traffic. Gundotra also announced that Google+ has 250 million accounts, 150 million active users during a month and 75 million active daily users. The June statistics from Compete seems to confirm the published figures from Google.

Well perhaps by the time government workers get Window/Office 2010 - workers in the private sector will be working on their new ‘Surface – Tablet’ from a cloud environment, maybe by that time Ottawa will be a smart city. Maybe by then our government will be considering whether we should be thinking of having a ‘smart government organization’. J
Early unveiling shows a product that has been rethought for a world where we use tablets and cloud computing

New Windows, new Office. That has been the pattern for the last few years, with Office 2007 arriving shortly after Windows Vista, and Office 2010 following Windows 7Microsoft claims that Office 2010 has been its most successful ever; but the new Office unveiled yesterday in San Francisco has the challenge of making sense on (or of) Windows 8, an operating system made for touch control on a tablet as well as for use with traditional mouse and keyboard.
This is also the cloud era, and Microsoft says that the new Office has been designed accordingly. "We're transitioning Office as a cloud service" said CEO Steve Ballmer, introducing Monday's launch.

Just so we don’t give up hope that some sensible approach to Internet Access appropriate to the digital economy can be enacted, here is an interesting piece. As it happens I came across this article after I had already switched my Internet service to Tek Savvy ($53/month for 28 mbps and 300gb cap, if I use more than 300gbs then I pay $65 and have ‘unlimited’ downloads).
June 29 2012 by Ellen Roseman
A $19 billion class action against Canada’s major wireless companies over undisclosed extra fees can proceed, thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada. About 30,000 people have joined the case, says lawyer Tony Merchant.

The issue is the “system access fee” that wireless carriers routinely added to customers’ bills. They blamed the government for making them charge an extra $7 to $9 a month, giving the impression they had no choice in the matter.
This particular fee may be gone except for customers with older plans, but extra fees still linger on wireless bills. For example, Rogers started in 2009 to charge a government regulatory recovery fee .

However, new customers are no better off, since the major carriers simply increased their prices to replicate the fees they say went toward paying for their licenses and purchasing wireless spectrum, as well as maintaining and upgrading their expensive wireless networks, said a Toronto Star story.

Another class action suit alleges that Bell Canada was using illegal expiry dates on its prepaid wireless contracts. Lead plaintiff Celia Sankar says Bell’s seizing of customers’ credit balances contravenes Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act.
Bell is angering many customers again. Not only is it charging a $2 fee for paper bills, but it is cutting its bundle discounts to $4 per service (from $5).

Bundle discounts are supposed to keep you loyal to Big Telecom and reluctant to switch elsewhere. But one customer did the math and switched his Internet service to Teksavvy (even before the bundle discounts were reduced in June).
I’m getting lots of feedback about Bell’s double play. See a few comments below from disgruntled clients. How can telecom companies raise prices for customers under contract? This is unfair, even unconscionable. A contract should be binding on both parties, not just one side.
Let’s hope that an enterprising lawyer sees abusive contracts as the next class action to fight in court.

Finally - According to the newly release World Innovation Index produced by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Canada ranks 12thin the world.
Stronger Innovation Linkages for Global Growth

In recent months, policy discussions about how to reignite confidence in the world economy have questioned the focus on austerity measures. The economic policy debate is placing renewed emphasis on achieving an appropriate policy mix that fosters growth and employment while promoting sustainable public finances.

Policies to promote innovation should feature prominently in these discussions—even if innovation cannot cure the most immediate financial difficulties, it is a crucial element of sustainable growth. Future generations will ask whether the stimulus programmes of 2009 and any upcoming initiatives successfully married short-term demand stimulus with longer-lasting growth objectives. They will also ask whether policy makers seized the opportunity presented by the current crisis to put forward-looking measures in place to lay the foundations for future prosperity. Finally, they will judge whether firms and other innovation actors invested appropriately in the future, and attempt to determine why some emerged from the crisis more strongly than others.

OF interest is the final chapters of this document:
Chapter 9: Broadband, Inevitable Innovation,and Development
By Robert Shaw, ITU, and Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD eLab and Broadband Commission
Chapter 10: The Internet: An Unprecedented and Unparalleled Platform for Innovation and Change
By Lynn St. Amour, Internet Society
Chapter 11: We Are All Content Creators Now: Measuring Creativity and Innovation in the Digital Economy
By Derek Slater and Patricia Wruuck, Google
In support of these three chapters here is
The Broadband Commission for Digital Developmentaddresses this open letter to world leaders, policy-makers, industry leaders, participants and citizens attending the G20 Leaders Meeting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Fate of the Dunbar Number

I've been meaning to rant a bit about the Dunbar Number. I think this is a case where correlations have been attributed to misleading causes.

Here's what the Wikipedia article has to say:

"Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150. Dunbar's number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size.
Dunbar's number was first proposed by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who theorized that "this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size ... the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained." On the periphery, the number also includes past colleagues such as high school friends with whom a person would want to reacquaint oneself if they met again."

Here are two images that I found useful on a Google Image search:


Manuel DeLanda in a wonderful discussion speaks about intensive dimensions of reality and the corresponding nature of change related to intensivities. Intensive dimensions are the measurable domains such as temperature, pressure, density or connectivity. Intensive dimensions are important in that they are subject to a certain type of change referred to as phase transitions. A phase transition is a very dramatic type of change within a very narrow band of measurement. For example, if we track the change of temperature in a body of water from 99 degrees Celsius to 1 degree Celsius we have a significant range of temperature with very little change in the water itself. However, in the next two degrees – from 1 degree to -1 degree we see something remarkable – water becomes solid. Two completely different ‘substances’ exist on each side of 0 degrees. This type of change is very difficult to anticipate unless we have already experienced it. It also represents a profound change in the conditions of change. And the digital environment represents a profound change in the conditions of change.

How can phase transitions occur in a social context? A simple example, as human populations reach certain levels of density we see phase transitions in the possibilities for increasing divisions of labour and variety of possible exchanges. For example, when humans were hunter-gatherers local groups generally never exceeded a population of 150-250 – a density that can only sustain very rudimentary divisions of labour (e.g. elder, adult, child, male-female, hunter-gatherer, shaman-healer). As humans become agricultural societies – local groups were able to increase population densities (by exponential amounts in some cases). This enabled a phase transition where many more permanent divisions of labour, and whole new occupations arose, each occupation becoming also a domain of specialized knowledge, and for the human a new way being in society. New institutions arose as well. The agricultural society is more than large gathering of hunter-gatherers who can farm, it required many more institutions, conventions and become profoundly more dependent on exchange. A similar phase transition occurred in the course of the emergence of the industrial society – exponential rise in population density, more levels of specialization, more exchange – whole new institutions (e.g. enablers for the governance of market and democratic political economies, public education, impartial justice, etc.). 

The argument I want to make is that although there are cognitive limitations - the essence of the Dunbar number is about 'bifurcation points' or phase transitions that become both possible and necessary. It much less about how we can only be 'close' with a certain size circle of friends. I can have a circle of 150 close ties in different contexts - for example if I've been involved in  sports league - I come to know not only my team members - but the characteristics of the members of all the other teams. I could have a different circle of close ties that are based on my neighbourhood, and maybe another circle at work. The key limitation is really time not my capacity to remember people's idiosyncrasies, but the time available to interact.

The increase in group size make evident both the inefficiencies of have everyone do everything and makes possible the sustainment of specialist functions. Thus in a firm getting larger than the Dunbar number it becomes possible, effective and efficient to have certain specialist take on certain functions - for example HR, Finance, etc. This is not only efficient but it enables an acceleration of knowledge because with specialization comes skills and ability. In a group the increase in specialist function makes possible new ways of being along occupational types of activity.

The concept of phase transition arising from related changes in population, connectiveness and communication ‘densities’ provides us with a useful overarching theory, and helps us to understand the potential of the emerging ubiquitous digital environment. The associated collapse of traditional transaction costs represents a change in the conditions of change, and the emergence of new modes of production which enable fundamentally new possibilities for the design of how work is accomplished. Ever since Adam Smith’s elaboration of the ‘pin factory’ we have known that economic prosperity and productivity gains are founded on the division of work into ever smaller units. Correspondingly the increase in population density of urban life has enabled the sustainment of ever more specialized work and workers. In essence, this theory proposes that the digital environment establishes the conditions that not only enable but induce hyper-connectivity which in turn enable/induce a hyper-division-of-labour/specialization. The paradox of increasing specialization is a corresponding dependence on exchange – and in the digital environment this means hyper-exchange. The result is an acceleration of knowledge flow – a hyper-knowledge-metabolism. Thus the phase transition inaugurated by the digital environment will require new design principles for harnessing human capital, new institutions, new social structures and a new political-economic philosophy. Whenever technology enables a significant reduction of transaction costs opportunities arise for institutional surplus. For example, middle-layers of management may become redundant through automated processes, monitoring systems or increased human/social capital. This surplus should be invested in developing the complex capabilities that match the external operational environment.

Lee Raimi and Barry Wellman in their new book Networked discuss network individualism as the new social operating system. To me this is like networked responsible autonomy (individuality that is both responsible for itself and to others - a connected social autonomy). For me the extent and variety of your network is what determines the depth of one's 'individuality'. This is what drives me crazy about the misreading of the Dunbar Number. It is not that our brains are not large enough to handle more than 150 close ties. Constraints of close tie are less about brain size than they are about time to interact.

What happens at the 150 point is a phase transition based on group density. The size of the group both enables and demands new types of group structures. For example a work place / firm that becomes larger than 150 need specialist functions to begin to emerge - for example an HR specialist dedicated to dealing with personnel issues because such issues become a 'full-time job'. The same goes for finance, and other functions. In fact, population density is like what happens at bifurcation points in multi-cellular organism - specialist functions become enabled and necessary.

All of this to say, that when we were living in groups smaller than 150 as hunter-gatherers, the idea of being a true individual did not exist. It is only with the birth of population densities where anonymity becomes inevitable and we become comfortable with it - that real individuality becomes possible.

So back to Raimi and Wellman - they posit that the digital environment is now enabling a new level of connectedness - beyond the Warholian idea of 15 minutes of fame - we now have something beyond a larger network of loose ties - we have audience. This is the very beginning of the arising visibility of the data of our digital trails. Google Glasses will be a turning point by creating a new domain of 'wantables'. Just as Steve Jobs did not do a customer survey on their needs - he knew they did not know what was 'wantable' until they experienced the iPod, iPhone, iPad. With Google Glasses the domain of 'wantables' of data visualizations - of the possibilities of augmented/mixed reality. Data visualizations will make visible new structures of social consciousness. This is turn will create new conditions of being - a change in the conditions of change. New way to experience oneself. As well as new possibilities of divisions of labour as Malone as discussed - Hyper-Specialization.

And this is where I think we must consider as necessary a broader approach to mind-training - a meditative discipline to see the paradox of the emptiness of our individuality as founded on every extending webs of exchange and inter-dependency. 

The new narratives will probably have to be emergent meta-narratives paradoxes of co-evolving self-creation mash-ups within social commons - the absolute anti-thesis from the idea of intellectual property ownership. As Kevin Kelly put it - there is only one gene-pool and it is our common-wealth. Or as Manuel DeLanda put it the only real individual (the true Genotype) is the gene-pool - all other entities are simply instantiated phenotypes of a limited range of possibilities of environment-gene-pool interaction. And that is , what I believe will be the emergent archetypal frame for new narrative structures - and the hosts of selves that we will experience.

Imagine designing - an education system, an organization, a publication process .... As If The Web Existed!!!

I have to give credit to Clay Shirky's recent Keynote presentation for the title of this post.

A less than random walk through the sticky fibres of the web.
  • Transparent government
  • Clay Shirky Keynote - A must Watch.
  • Google developments
  • CIA figures on the speed of mobile uptake
  • How big is the cloud? – great insight on the acceleration of cloud computing by focusing just on storage
  • An app for mesh-networks • New screens
In the last few Friday Thinking assemblages I’ve included posts pointing to an open approach to publications – here’s one level above that – as governments begin the shift to more transparency in the digital environment.
Hamburg’s Transparency Law to open government more than ever
The Beatles played their first concert in Hamburg. Hamburg’s harbour is one of Europe’s largest. Now Hamburg, one of Germany’s 16 federal states, also has one of the world’s best transparency laws. Passed in mid-June, the new law sets a precedent that might resonate in the worldwide open government community.
The new 10-page Hamburg Transparency Law, was passed through the parliament of city-state Hamburg with the support of all political parties. Observers rubbed their eyes since the legal implications are enormous. The law is so much more far-reaching than the most advanced information of freedom laws at national level.
Clay Shirky always has some great insights, such as - Institutions work to presserve the problem to which they are the solution; or Process is the effort to project the solution to yesterday's problem onto the future. Here is a recent and scathing Keynote Talk he gave related to the current dismal situation of the traditional Press. I consider this a "Must Watch" as he has a lot to say that is relevant to any organization including science, and education organizations.
The Guardian Activate Summit: Clay Shirky Keynote
The next few articles all build on the emerging digital environment. What is dramatically important about Google Glasses, is not what they will be initially - it the new 'Wantables' that they will enable. Think about the iPad - Jobs didn't have survey done to see what people wanted. Instead he designed something he felt they 'would' want - he knew they didn't really know what was wantable. The iPhone/iPad created a new platform of wantables - APPs - informational services. We are still in the doorway of the new field.
Google Glasses will create a field 'wantables' related to unprecedented variety of informational visualizations - big data - in order for us to begin to see the structures of social consciousness and incorporate these into the way we live our daily lives.
Google I/O: Google Demos Glasses in Amazing Skydiving Stunt Over San Francisco
Sergey Brin took the stage at the end of the keynote to do a surprise demo of Google's Project Glass. He warned that the demo "could go wrong in about 500 different ways," but then he turned to the screen to reveal his friend JT flying overhead about to jump out of an airplane.
JT was coming in live via Google+ Hangout over the prototype glasses. Brin and JT had a surprisingly natural conversation, with JT up in an airplane and Brin on stage at Moscone.
After riling up the crowd, the skydivers got Moscone in their sights. "Hellooooo, San Francisco!" they shouted as they leaned out of the open door, and then they jumped from the plane. The Hangout video was perfect. As the skydivers plummeted toward the ground, the video streamed in live.
Here’s the YouTube video of this
New analytics – artificial intelligence – what Google has that Apple doesn’t is ‘Big Data’ analytics.
Google’s Artificial Brain Learns to Find Cat Videos
When computer scientists at Google’s mysterious X lab built a neural network of 16,000 computer processors with one billion connections and let it browse YouTube, it did what many web users might do — it began to look for cats.
The “brain” simulation was exposed to 10 million randomly selected YouTube video thumbnails over the course of three days and, after being presented with a list of 20,000 different items, it began to recognize pictures of cats using a “deep learning” algorithm. This was despite being fed no information on distinguishing features that might help identify one.
Picking up on the most commonly occurring images featured on YouTube, the system achieved 81.7 percent accuracy in detecting human faces, 76.7 percent accuracy when identifying human body parts and 74.8 percent accuracy when identifying cats.
“Contrary to what appears to be a widely-held intuition, our experimental results reveal that it is possible to train a face detector without having to label images as containing a face or not,” the team says in its paper, Building high-level features using large scale unsupervised learning, which it will present at the International Conference on Machine Learning in Edinburgh, 26 June-1 July.
The findings — which could be useful in the development of speech and image recognition software, including translation services — are remarkably similar to the “grandmother cell” theory that says certain human neurons are programmed to identify objects considered significant. The “grandmother” neuron is a hypothetical neuron that activates every time it experiences a significant sound or sight. The concept would explain how we learn to discriminate between and identify objects and words. It is the process of learning through repetition.
“We never told it during the training, ‘This is a cat,’” Jeff Dean, the Google fellow who led the study, told the New York Times. “It basically invented the concept of a cat.”
The speed at which mobile devices are being taken up as well as the speed of their increasing power – represents part of the phase transition into a digital society/economy/environment. In 2020, I wonder who won’t have a smartphone/tablet/device as at least one of their internet platforms? How cheap will Google Glasses 5 be by then? Certainly the Kindle as it is today (about $89) will be a commodity like a calculator is now.
CIA's View Of Mobile, Internet Use: By The Numbers Here's what the CIA sees as the use of mobile phones completely outpaces use of the Internet.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency recently reported some interesting information on mobile phone and Internet usage: There's a huge gap between the number of mobile users and the number of Internet users worldwide.
And the gulf that divides them will only continue to widen. China owns the top spot on both lists, with 859 million mobile phone users and 389 million Internet users. You might notice a difference of about 500 million people between those two numbers. The difference highlights how pervasive mobile technology has become, especially in regions where the wired Internet isn't available.
India has the second-highest number of mobile phone users, with 752 million, but it ranks sixth in Internet use, with 61.34 million. Nearly 700 million people in India use mobile phones but don't use the wired Internet. Why not? They don't have access to computers--their mobile handsets are the only connection available…..
The CIA also calls out some eye-popping stats with respect to growth--for example, Brazil’s mobile-cellular usage has more than tripled in the past 5 years. In Russia, the estimated number of mobile subscribers jumped from fewer than 1 million in 1998 to nearly 240 million by the end of 2010. And in Pakistan, mobile-cellular subscribership has skyrocketed from about 300,000 in 2000 to more than 110 million by the end of 2011--more than 90% of Pakistanis currently have cell phone coverage at home. ….
This is a very good view into the massive growth of cloud computing – the new industrial replacement of the publishing industry’s infrastructure of printing manufacture and distribution. Now that everyone is a publishing producer – clouds become enabling parts of the digital environment.
How big is the cloud?
At any one time, streaming adult videos probably utilize around 30% of the internet’s total bandwidth, which equates to around 6 terabytes of porn being consumed every second. But what about the other 70%? Netflix, YouTube, and other non-adult video sites are huge bandwidth hogs, possibly accounting for as much as 40% of internet traffic. Digital file lockers, such as Rapidshare and Megaupload, account for around 10% of traffic worldwide. Web surfing and email (and spam!) are another 15%. And then there’s cloud computing.
Today, the vast majority of web services and sites are hosted in the cloud. By this I mean that, instead of companies (such as Ziff Davis/ExtremeTech) managing their own hardware, third-party cloud storage and computing services are used. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google are three prominent examples of huge cloud clusters, but there are hundreds of smaller operations that range in size from a whole data center down to a few racks.
The power of the cloud is vested in the fact that it can be coerced and shoehorned into tasks as disparate as a cloud-based supercomputer, to webmail, to simple document storage. On a single cloud cluster, Google can host and serve petabytes of YouTube videos and store all of your email and documents. Of all the facets of the cloud, though, today we’re going to focus on cloud storage….
New types of mesh-networks should be abundant in 2020 as well.
Could You Spare Some Internet Access?
An app called Open Garden lets users share wireless bandwidth, and could reduce network congestion—if carriers don't revolt. Though the idea of having Internet available everywhere is no longer a fantasy, it's not quite reality, either. Many of us carry smart phones everywhere we go, but we don't always have a high-speed data or Wi-Fi connection. And in many places, Internet access can still be hard to find.
Open Garden wants to change this. The San Francisco–based startup recently rolled out a smart-phone app that lets you connect to the Internet by piggybacking on the Web access of other Open Garden app users, using peer-to-peer connections that form a mesh network. The company's hope is that, in addition to making Internet access ubiquitous, Open Garden will become a platform on top of which developers can build new kinds of mobile services…..
Imagine designing - an education system, an organization, a publication process .... As If The Web Existed!!!