Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thoughts on Genius, Youth, and a new Renessance

I'm observing myself, and my interactions with the world. One of the things I've noticed is that I'm doing something novel with the whole Synthetic Aperture project... standing on the shoulders of Mark Levoy, and his group at Stanford. Looking at the situation and thinking about how I got here leads me to some conclusions which I want to discuss.

The nature of communications changed when the printing press became widespread. The ability of a person to take a large chunk of time and effort, and to store a piece of their knowledge and to share it with a wide audience, brought about a flowering of learning that brought about an age of rationalism.

Over time consolidation of the means of sharing knowledge crept in, leading to a series of middlemen who effectively filter our global conversations.

I believe that the web, and the advent of search engines give us a new set of tools for communication. We have an opportunity to see how we've gotten here, and to discuss where we want to go. The whole nature of this is changing.

Doc Searls first talked about using search engines as new source of news feeds, I cautioned him about the dangers of tuning feedback loops wrongly... and pretty much dismissed the idea. I threw out a good idea when I did that... fortunately nothing is 100% good or bad... and I now use this very idea sometimes.

Google and the other search engines are powerful tools that help you find knowledge based on keywords. Now it's a bit too much like magic for my comfort because it's all keyword based... you have to know how to find just the right words to find something that is outside the most popular usage of words for a given area of interest, but it works.

Subscribing to searches (which is what Doc does)... means that you've got a set of things that you've decided to stay informed about by using the same magic words on a continuing basis. (A spell?)

Casting a spell, and keeping it alive, allows you to effectively have a personal clipping service for ALL of the knowledge that's within the intake range of Google.

Unlike the print revolution, which allowed the transport of knowledge... Google allows the ability to sift through an appreciable chunk of ALL knowledge, and to see all new stuff that pops up over time.

If anyone, anywhere says Doc Searls in a post, there is now a non-zero probabilty that he'll know about it. Imagine being able to tell whenever someone mentions your name? Now you can, and it's called Ego Surfing.

Now.. this means that someone can become interested in a subject, and keep informed on the latest thinking on the subject.. and others so interested will find each other. Thanks to some social networks which helped me to find Robert Scoble as a credible source of new stuff... I saw his interview of Mark Levoy, and the demo about post-facto refocusing of images... and got interested in doing it myself.

Now I can keep up with it, and converse with others by using some magic spells and patience.

I believe their is an age bias if you look for sources of innovation globally. I firmly believe the quote about standing on the shoulders of giants. Innovation happens when you rub ideas together... this is most likely when at least one of the ideas is new in a person's mind... this I believe leads to a bias of young inventors, followed by a lifetime of tweaking or polishing up of previous work... that is going to change.

I wouldn't have heard of Mark Levoy if it weren't for the web... or if I had, it would have been in my youth, before his current work was in progress... so it would have only been through an existing social network that I could have heard of his research without the web. If the web weren't around... only students and other academics would be hearing about it now.

Since we can now become interested in new ideas and follow up on them much more easily outside the academic framework of knowledge sharing... age is far less of a factor in innovation.

I'm interested in any follow up or conversation... and suggestions for magic spells to help me with that in mind.

Thanks for your time and attention.


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