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From Here To Singularity

"The time from here to Singularity depends sensitively on the particulars of what we humans do during the next decade (and even the next few years)."

Archive for July, 2007

“Digital Physics” – Your cognitive artifacts come to life.

This interesting post discusses the user interface of this month’s new overpriced bauble from Apple (No, I’m not jealous – much.) Representational physics (Dubbed “Digital” Physics by the author) is a an ever more immersive part of the digital user interface. Part of this is certainly resulting in improved experience, but part of the drive is IMO just “feature” competition, bored programmers doing cute stuff, and marketing wonks let loose in product design.

iphone home

For people who play video games, Digital Physics is old news. For the rest of us, the Digital Physics experience is new. The traditional Windows desktop of the nineties never delivered life-like experiences. Instead, users where forced to learn to interact with computers by learning new gestures, via mice and keyboard. The modern interface from Apple changed that paradigm somewhat, by introducing digital interfaces that responded to mouse clicks. iPhone takes this experience to a whole new level, letting us interact with digital information using our hands.

I am not convinced that this is the paradigm shift that Apple boys are all calling it. Representational Physics (The article calls this “Digital Physics” which misses the real point IMO.) has been around as long as tools have – after all, what is a tool but a way of translating one intention into a different action? And, what makes selecting an item from your iphone playlist any different from choosing the floor to go to in an elevator?
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Convergence – ie ‘Our Inevitable Digital Future?’

Nice quick summary of the current status quo of virtual/real world convergence, though I still think that people take ‘Second Life’ far too seriously, and the google earth/MS Earth tools aren’t showing the potential to have make any substantive changes to our existence yet. (No time to really comment right now, hopefully I will come back to this. I really need to add a link blog to this site.)

Life is becoming more digital and digital is becoming more alive. On one hand we have the rapid rise of Second Life and other virtual worlds. On the other we are beginning to annotate our planet with digital information, via technologies like Google Earth. In both cases digital information is breaking geographical boundaries and overcoming the limitations imposed by our physical world. Flying in second life has the same affect as linking a Wikipedia entry to the Grand Canyon as rendered in Google Earth.

Information is being unleashed and re-shuffled. We are beginning to look at information from literally a 1000 foot view. And everything is becoming increasingly more connected. This is both very exciting and a bit unnerving. We are accelerating into our digital future from all directions – pushing digital towards life and pushing life towards digital.

Digital Life vs Life Digital: Our Inevitable Digital Future

Look! Up in the sky! It’s Virtual Earth! (video)

Following on from yesterday’s post (well, not really) is this TED video demonstrating the latest in virtual real reality processing. Something tells me that this isn’t going to be as good as the real thing. But, I sure if we wait a decade or so…

Microsoft’s Stephen Lawler gives a whirlwind tour of Virtual Earth, moving up, down and through its hyperreal cityscapes with dazzlingly fluidity, a remarkable feat that requires staggering amounts of data to bring into focus. Google might still be ahead of the game, but even in beta, Virtual Earth shows incredible promise. Microsoft’s visions for the product — as a provider of real-time weather and traffic data, or a realistic backdrop for game developers and IM conversations, or virtual ad space — all seem well within the limits of possibility.

TED | Talks | Stephen Lawler: Look! Up in the sky! It’s Virtual Earth! (video)

Study suggests correlation between happiness and (gahh!) going outside.

A study of Swedish vacationing and antidepressant use seems to suggest a correlation between inclement weather and antidepressant use. Sweden, being very far north, has excessively dark winters, and consequently a government mandate summer holidays to compensate.

Hartig and colleagues suggest that being stuck indoors on vacation can limit mental recuperation. On the other hand, when able to roam outdoors, we can exert ourselves at a favourite sport or simply linger in the park. Psychologically, beautiful scenery can distract us from our troubles, help us forget our normal stressful environments and reconnect us to nature.

Well, who knows what’s really going on, but the Swedish researchers found a negative correlation between SSRI prescriptions filled with the temperature in Sweden for the month of July, going over several years. Given that more and more of people’s time is spent doing less and less outside (and more and more time is spent staring at a computer monitor, like you are right now) what does this trend bode for our mental health?
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Online forums can yield quality advice, research finds.

In my professional and personal life I have found great use for online forums. They are of immense value to geographically scattered but like-minded individuals focused on a specific area of human expertise. What we have, is a cognitive artefact that facilitates peer advising via the electronic medium.

That’s a rather fancy way of saying they are a good way of sharing information with other people who share a particular vocation or hobby. There are forums for all sorts of things, from dealing with acne, to recording rock bands, to political activism (there are plenty of those), along with mailing lists that have been functioning for aeons (those are online forums, too), as well as plenty purely for the entertainment of their members.

So this study regarding the efficacy of advice to be found in online forum discussions comes as no surprise.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who seek out general weight loss information via Internet forums will, more often than not, receive correct information, especially if the messages are posted on heavily trafficked Internet sites, results of a study suggest.

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