Sunday, December 30, 2007

12/29/07 many news agencies picked up analysis provided by research firm Basex, which chose "information overload" as its 2008 "Problem of the Year."

Many Americans share this concern. In a 2007 Pew survey, 49 percent of Americans described themselves as having "few tech assets" and said that constant connectivity was an annoyance, not a liberation.

But young people don't seem to have (yet, anyway) developed the same sense of aggravation toward technology that forces them to multitask. Many choose to do so, in fact. The Kaiser Family Foundation found in a study this year that most junior high and high school students train themselves early in the dark arts of multitasking, with most listening to music or watching TV while they read books or surf the Internet. 30 percent of students even multitask while doing their homework.

Will these students feel the multitasking pinch when they grow up to become the new generation of "knowledge workers," or will constant exposure to interruptions make them more adept at handling the massive torrent of information that flows through modern computers and cell phones? Or is the "do more things at once philosophy" simply a dead end that produces only monstrosities, like the Internet-connected refrigerator we've heard so much about?

We should probably add to it calorie-, TV-, guns-, and other overloads that we've been suffering for years now. Though, I am yet to hear anything about vacation overload :)

Friday, December 28, 2007

12/27/07 News Agencies
Beijingers were warned to stay indoors on Thursday as pollution levels across the capital hit the top of the scale, despite repeated assurances by the government that air quality was improving.

"This is as bad as it can get," a spokeswoman for the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau told AFP.

"Level five is the worst level of air pollution. This is as bad as it has been all year."

According to the bureau's website, 15 out of the 16 pollution monitoring stations in urban Beijing registered a "five" for air quality rating.

The main pollutant was suspended particulate matter, which is usually attributed to coal burning and automotive exhaust.

Chinese cities are reaching growth limits.
12/28/27 Reuters:

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) (BRKb.N) is starting a bond insurer that would help state and local governments lower their borrowing costs, and is likely to lure business from established rivals struggling with credit market turmoil.

Buffett, often called the world's greatest investor, is known for taking large business and investment risks.

He has said, for example, that Berkshire is willing to suffer a $6 billion insurance loss on a single storm. The company was able to boost premiums following Hurricane Katrina after weaker rivals reduced underwriting risk.

Buffet's risk profile fits the one of a risk-taker, while in reality his larger-than-life bets decrease risks because they enable him to shape the situation. He always buys control, not risk. He times his purchases so that his ability to control the developments in the industry is at a maximum. For example, now everybody is out of cash and he can come in and define his new rules for the game.
Kinsey Steven G., Bailey Michael T., Sheridan John F., Padgett David A., The Inflammatory Response to Social Defeat is Increased in Older Mice, Physiology & Behavior (2007), doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.11.003
As seen previously in young adult mice, social defeat caused an increase in anxiety-like behavior in the open field test, but had no effect on learned helplessness in the forced swim test. These data indicated that repeated social defeat results in a proinflammatory state that is exacerbated in older mice. The implications of these data are noteworthy, given the strong role of inflammation in many age-related diseases.

These findings relate to the problem we considered during the Summer 2006 Principles of Invention course: physical injures cause older people disproportionate amount of suffering, and often are a precursor to a downward health spiral.
12/28/07 By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics writes:
New-home sales tumbled 9 percent in November from October to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 647,000, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That was the worst sales pace since April 1995.

"It was ugly," declared Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research. "It is the one sector of the economy that doesn't show any signs of life. It doesn't look like there is any resuscitation in store for housing over the next year," he said.

The housing picture turned out to be more grim than most anticipated. Many economists were predicting sales to decline by 1.8 percent to a pace of 715,000.

By region, sales fell in all parts of the country, except for the West.

In the Midwest, new-home sales plunged 27.6 percent in November from October. Sales dropped 19.3 percent in the Northeast and fell 6.4 percent in the South. In the West, however, sales rose 4 percent.

Over the last 12 months, new-home sales nationwide have tumbled by 34.4 percent, the biggest annual slide since early 1991, and stark evidence of the painful collapse in the once high-flying housing market.

"I think you can classify what we are seeing in the housing market as a crash," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "Sales and home prices are in a free fall. The downturn is intensifying."

A very interesting trend. People will be spending less money on housing and loan servicing, and probably more on staples, entertainment, and communications.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seth Godin talks about his newest book "All Marketers are Liars".

02:50 into the video he says: "Technology gives you a shot at marketing".

This is control point of the first kind: "remarkable product", i.e. something that gets you a foot in the market's door. Two more control points to go: ... still need to find good words to describe them.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Why do some theaters innovate more than others?

An Empirical Study. Paul Dimaggio and Kristen Stenberg. Poetics, Volume 14, Issues 1-2, April 1985, Pages 107-122.


The authors develop a measure of the ‘innovativeness’ of the repertoires of U.S. resident nonprofit theatres and test hypotheses about the relationship between environmental and organizational factors and innovation. Access to potential patrons rich in cultural capital appears to make theatre repertoires more innovate, while dependence upon the market (as opposed to grants and contributions) is associated with greater conformity of repertoire. Theatres with smaller budgets to maintain, fewer seats to fill, and less need for earned income are less conformist in their programming than are large theatres with capacious houses and high rates of earned income. Holding size and dependence on earned income constant, there is no evidence that age, structural differentiation, or the presence of subscription audiences—all associated with ‘institutionalization’ – have either a negative or a positive impact on innovation. New York theatres innovate more, and are less negatively affected by growth and the market, than theatres elsewhere in the U.S. It is suggested that artistic innovation has come to depend overwhelmingly on the behavior of formal organizations and that, consequently, we must understand the principles that govern the relationship of such organizations to their economic and social environments in order to understand artistic change.

Market breeds conformity. Very similar to ideas expressed in Christensen's "Innovator's Dilemma": one one hand you have to listen to your customers, because they pay your money; on the other hand you don't want to listen to them, because they do not know what they are going to need tomorrow.
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; this, in a few words, is the entire Torah; all the rest is but an elaboration of this one, central point. - Rabbi Hillel, 1st Cent, BCE.

quoted from The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt, p. 45, NY. 2006

The question of technology

Prof. Hubert L.Dreyfus writes

How can we relate ourselves to technology in a way that not only resists its devastation but also gives it a positive role in our lives? This is an extremely difficult question to which no one has yet given an adequate response, but it is perhaps the question for our generation.

I think I am getting close to answering this question. The key is to consider various aspects of the innovation process and determine pathways through which we become devastated or enslaved by technology.

We start by thinking about technology as an evolving system of interacting elements. The devastation occurs when on a certain step of the system evolution we, without realizing the consequences, become objects of control rather its subjects.

Consider iPod.
When we buy one in a store on or on the internet, we acquire not just the device itself, but also cables, iTunes software, automatic connections to iTunes internet service, and, finally, a certain way to interface with media devices. We say we by an iPod, but in reality, we pay for one thing, specifically a piece of hardware, but acquire a whole system of elements and relationships that has products, services, and processes built into it.
The enslavement begins in this cognitive gap between "pay money for" and "acquire" which we tend to hide from ourselves by using just one word "buy".
In order to enjoy our purchase, we have to plug ourselves into a technology, which is being continuously developed by Apple corporation. In other words, we become a part of Apple technology - a living, breathing, consuming, paying part, capable of acquiring further products, services, processes, and, ultimately, led to the next Apple technology.

1. Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the Information Age", by Peter D. Hershock.
2. H.L.Dreyfus (above)
3. Faïz Gallouj, 2002, Innovation in services and the attendant old and new myths. Journal of Socio-Economics, Volume 31, Issue 2, 2002, Pages 137-154.
4. Jeffrey A. Martin and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, 2004, COPING WITH DECLINE IN DYNAMIC MARKETS: CORPORATE ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND THE RECOMBINATIVE ORGANIZATIONAL FORM. Advances in Strategic Management, Volume 21, 2004, Pages 357-382
5. Jonathan D. Lintona, and Steven T. Walsh, 2007, A theory of innovation for process-based innovations such as nanotechnology, Technological Forecasting and Social Change ( Article in press).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Voter fraud detection in Russian elections

gaika on slashdot writes
"A graph in the best traditions of Edward Tufte shows how the voting was rigged in Russian parliament elections. Initially some regions were showing higher than 100% attendance, but later on everything was corrected, or way too much corrected, as the correlation between winning party's vote and attendance now stands at 90%. I guess the people who have rigged the vote have never heard about Correlation Cofficient."

Putin's Party Share and Invalid Ballots vs Turnout (Relative %)

A fraud detection problem has been solved. There's a strong indication that election laws were broken. The Systematic Innovation theory predicts that within an unconstrained system the next step would be activation of the "control" element, capable of addressing the abnormality. For example, in a country with independent press and/or judiciary an investigation and, possibly, a lawsuit would follow.

Now, I wonder what is going to happen with this discovery in Putin's Russia. In my opinion, there are several ways the situation can unfold:

1. Nothing happens. The government and the press ignores this information.
2. Strong negative reaction. The findings are suppressed and steps are taken to discredit the authors of the study.
3. A weak positive reaction. An independent investigation is initiated and it produces a credible explanation of the events.
4. A strong positive reaction. A government investigation is launched and it produces a credible explanation of the events.
4a. same as 4, but the government doesn't find anything suspicious.

Depending on the outcome, we'll be able to see which "control" mechanisms are the strongest, and which ones are entirely missing.

For comparison: Voting results in Canada.

Macrovision continues moving into meta-data

Macrovision, which makes technology that protects videos and music against illegal copying, said on Friday it agreed to buy Gemstar-TV Guide in a cash-and-stock deal worth about $2.8 billion.
Macrovision is betting that a combination of its security software with Gemstar's interactive program guide, technology used by cable and satellite television companies, will allow protected TV shows, films, personal photos, or music to be available on numerous devices beyond the television.

Gemstar-TV Guide shareholders will get $6.35 per share in cash or 0.2548 of a share of common stock in a new holding company that will own both Gemstar-TV Guide and Macrovision.

Macrovision is trying to jump to a different S-curve. The industry transition to digital video formats makes their analog content security system obsolete. The gravy train they were riding all these years is about to run out of space.
They recently bought another meta-data supplier - AMG(?).
Google's acquisition list keeps growing, and growing, and growing...

Over the last three years there were no major innovation from Google's internal development team. All this despite their reputation for being the best and brightest.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Absolutely no bubble in technology

A new concept from Philips Design

The Electronics Tattoo film expresses the visual power of sensitive technology applied to the human body. The film subtly leads the viewer through the simultaneous emotional and aesthetic transformations between two lovers.


This effect would look really cool in movies, stills, and live picture frames.

Predictions for 2008: A massive data meltdown
"You'll see a massive failure in a year," Bapat said at a dinner with reporters on Monday. "We are going to see a data center failure of that scale."

"That scale" referred to the problems caused by the worm created by Cornell grad student Robert Morris Jr. in 1988. His worm infected about 5 percent of the Unix boxes on the Internet, freaked people out, and helped jump-start the security industry.

On a more cheery note, Bapat and other Sun executives said that the IT industry is also on the verge of a construction boom that, if it happens, will lead to big orders for equipment for makers of servers, storage systems, and other data center equipment.

The typical life span of a data center is only about 10 to 12 years, said the Sun executives. Thus, a lot of those data centers built at the beginning of the dot-com era need to be rebuilt. Other companies like Facebook are expanding rapidly as well. (Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos mentioned Facebook several times, so it sounds like maybe Sun is working with, or trying to work with, them. Just a thought.)

National labs and universities are also looking at new centers. Next year, one of the national labs has plans to build a data center that will take up 500,000 square feet and consume 50 megawatts. (Big data centers now take up 400,000 square feet and chew up 40 megawatts, Sun executives said.)

Looks like a great opportunity to inject new technologies and/or capture market share from the existing players.

Another angle: solar power. Some of those data centers will be equipped with autonomous power units.