Rich as a specie

Long conversation with Paul Saffo on TimesOnline. Several interesting predictions from the founder of the Institute For The Future.

Robots are the next big thing:

[…] But the next big thing is already here: robots. In the 1980s it was the personal computer: came out of the garage, changed the world. In the 1990s it was the web. The next big device to wander into our lives is robots,” […] Robots will soon appear in all areas of our lives and will take over things we now see as everyday tasks, said Saffo. Driving is a good example.

[…] in 2007, the vehicles of six teams [competing in the Darpa challenge] were sophisticated enough to take on an “urban challenge”, negotiating a 60-mile course in less than six hours, obeying regulations and negotiating traffic. “The same morning as the Darpa challenge there was a 108-car pile-up on a California freeway. The simple fact is that people shouldn’t drive,” […]

Most people’s day-to-day interaction with robots will not come in the form of the super-brained robots of science fiction, however, but from a cloud of pea-brained electronic insects doing household tasks such as vacuuming, finding house keys and pumping petrol or co-ordinating everyday tasks.  [See Frederic Kaplan’s talk at Lift Asia 08, Robots don’t have to look like robots]

A new specie might emerge from medical innovation: the rich!

As the biological revolution spreads, Saffo sees many moral dilemmas ahead. For example, by using genetic testing and tailor-made drugs it may be possible to mitigate many common ailments that affect the ageing population — but such improvements will probably be available only to the super-rich. […]

“That’s social dynamite,” said Saffo. “I sometimes wonder if the very rich will become a completely separate species. Imagine if the very rich can live, on average, 20 years longer than the poor. That’s 20 more years of earning and saving. Think what that means about wealth and power and the advantages that you pass on to your children.”

Society is increasingly fragmentated:

“The nation state had a nice run but it’s coming to an end. Globalisation made people think of themselves as global citizens” […] In the past that community was the nation state but now, says Saffo, the centre cannot hold.

The growth of the European Union, devolution in the UK, David Cameron’s recent pledge that there would less government and more local autonomy under a Conservative administration, and the splits in the US states over gay marriage and healthcare all point towards an increasingly fractured future. [Not sure what the growth of the European Union is doing in that list. Seems it’s actually a counter argument]

Link (thx Nico)

Good presentations

This summer I tried to explain how to recognize a good conference, and obviously much of an event’s success rests on the speakers shoulders. So what is a good presentation? Ray Poynter explored this question in a survey titled Analysis of Presenting (free pdf here).

The survey indicates that the focus of any presentation is the audience, but the respondents think that presenters sometimes think it is the presenter or the data which is the focus.

Since audiences differ, there can be no single best method/style of presenting. Many of the requests from respondents are contradictory, i.e. you can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

Audiences expect presenters to be confident, capable, and rehearsed. There is little tolerance these days for a presenter who turns up and simply delivers the content in a clear but unengaged way […]

Audiences are to some extent conflicted in that they want both more and less. They want to understand the message, they want the experience to be pleasant, but they want it doing in less time. In order for this to happen, they want presenters to be better. They want better preparation, better decisions about what to present and what to leave out, better slides, and better presenting skills.

View full report

Touch screen, kiss screen

When dating games become so real, a new form of addiction which brings a whole new level of consequences shows up in couples.

The DS has a mic and a touchscreen, so… one time, she asked me to say “I love you” a hundred times into the mic. I was on the airplane when she asked me that, so I was like, no way. And then there’s the part where you have to kiss her. […] The girl’s face shows up on the screen, and you have to touch her lips to give her a kiss. That’s pretty weird…. this is embarrassing. I’m sweating right now just talking about it.

My husband has a virtual girlfriend

Truth + counter truth = emptiness

Great interview (in French, my English translation below) of Umberto Eco about books, the internet, innovation and knowledge:

Ce qui forme une culture n’est pas la conservation mais le filtrage. Il y a du hasard dans la façon dont les oeuvres sont parvenues jusqu’à nous. Nous ne saurons jamais si, parmi les quatre mille rouleaux qui ont brûlé dans la bibliothèque d’Alexandrie à l’Antiquité, ne se trouvait pas un chef-d’oeuvre de l’humanité plus immense qu’Homère. […] Notre culture est ainsi le produit de ce qui a survécu à des filtres plus ou moins hasardeux, incendies volontaires ou non, censures, ratés, pertes… […] Et Internet est le scandale d’une mémoire sans filtrage, où l’on ne distingue plus l’erreur de la vérité. Au final, cela produit aussi un effacement de la mémoire.

Il existe une sorte de Larousse encyclopédique admis par tout le monde, même si celui d’un homme de 70 ans est plus fourni que celui d’un jeune de 25 ans. Internet peut signifier à terme la mise en miettes de ce Larousse commun au profit de six milliards d’encyclopédies, chaque individu se construisant la sienne, chacun pouvant à loisir préférer Ptolémée à Copernic, le récit de la Genèse à l’évolution des espèces. Nous courons le risque d’une incommunicabilité complète, l’impossibilité d’un savoir universel…

Umberto Eco on Telerama

[[What created culture is not conservation but filtering. There’s randomness in how the works have reached us. We will never know if, among the four thousand scrolls burned in the library of Alexandria in ancient times was not a masterpiece of humanity greater than Homer. […] Our culture is thus the product of what has survived filters more or less hasardous, censorship, failures, losses … […] And the Internet is the scandal of a memory without filtering, where we can no longer distinguish the truth from error. Finally, it also produces an erasure of memory.

There is a kind of encyclopedia accepted by everyone, even if a man of 70 years knows more than a 25 year old. Internet could mean the eventual demise of the common encyclopedia, replaced by six billion encyclopedias, each individual constructing his own, each of which may prefer leisure to Ptolemy to Copernicus, the story of Genesis to the evolution of species. We run the risk of an inability to communicate, the impossibility of a universal knowledge]


It’s a vast question: is the internet helping standardize knowledge (and therefore unifying it), or is it tearing us all apart into our own encyclopedias? Will society accept that, even if archiving everything is technically possible, it is neither wishable nor something mandatory to the creation of a culture?

Youth ‘cannot live’ without web

The BBC links to a report by YouthNet, and I find two things interesting. First, the fact that one of the problem is parent’s ignorance, creating a deficit of guidelines:

Mr Jones thinks it is the parents who need to become more sophisticated.

“One of the biggest problems for children is not that they are vulnerable but that their parents don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. […]

“It’s important that parents have full understanding of the internet and its risks – younger people need parental direction,” he said.

Another finding confirms what we saw in this past week-end’s Lift workshop with children in Champoussin, that there is no such thing as a disconnected device for youth:

“For young people the internet is part of the fabric of their world and does not exist in isolation from the physical world

BBC: Youth ‘cannot live’ without web


If you don’t know AntiVJ, we showed their work to introduce a session at Lift Asia, and what they do is simply fantastic. Check around 3:55 when the building goes 3D for one of the most spectacular visual effect you will ever see.

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