Friday, March 30, 2012
Hacker Dojo is a living example of the computer culture of Silicon Valley. For a modest monthly fee, entrepreneurial-minded software developers can get workspace, high speed Internet access, a place to mingle with like-minded folks and share ideas, and perhaps even start new companies. But even though I'm a veteran software developer myself, my reason for visiting had nothing to do with this. Rather, I was there because I've gotten involved with something called "Startup Idol", which will be a series of live webcasts similar to the "American Idol" TV show, except that all the contestants will be founders of startup companies and all the judges will be venture capitalists, and the Hacker Dojo will be the venue for the webcasts. It's a shoestring production that's underfunded and understaffed, and it's not quite certain that the webcasts will even happen on schedule. Still, it seems to have some interesting possibilities, so I've offered to lend them a hand.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I went to an interesting talk the other day by Evgeny Morozov, author of the recent book, "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom." Morozov is a researcher from Belarus who studies the social and political impact of the Internet and is currently a visiting scholar at Stanford. He challenges the optimistic view of those who say that the Internet will always have a liberalizing and democratizing effect on authoritarian regimes, and argues that it can just as easily be used as a tool for political repression, public surveillance and the spread of extremist propaganda. He calls the U.S. government's "Internet Freedom Agenda" naive and maybe even counterproductive in promoting democracy through the Web. He has a lot of ideas that are well worth considering, especially since they're seldom discussed.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
We all know how medical costs are soaring out of control, placing a huge burden on the entire economy. But inexpensive digital devices are alleviating some of those costs, by enabling patients to monitor their physical signs at home with fewer visits to the doctor. For example, a tiny sensor created by Proteus Biomedical in Redwood City California is eaten by the patient, and once activated inside the body, transmits heart rate and other information to a smartphone.
With such devices, it's easy to observe patterns of physical symptoms over time, and when symptoms might be reduced by diet, exercise or meditation, it's easier to determine which of those are actually working.
Digital monitoring devices are already a billion dollar industry and growing fast. In a few years, use of such devices is likely to be the norm rather than the exception. There are a few potential drawbacks, such as such as the possibility that your data, transmitted over wireless networks, may be accessed by people who are not authorized to see it, or that your data could be tampered with. Nevertheless, we definitely seem to be moving in the direction of having a much more detailed and comprehensive view of everything going on in our bodies, with far fewer of those costly doctor visits than before.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
|Zuckerberg and Peres|
It's an interesting experiment, and it raises some important questions. Is peace the natural state of mankind with war being a temporary aberration usually caused by misunderstandings? Or is war the natural state, as people compete ferociously for the things they want, and peace is just a lull between outbreaks of fighting? There's probably truth in both perspectives.
What Facebook can do, by creating a vast public marketplace of ideas, is bring clarity to the issues, help define what matters most to people, and do this at an accelerated pace that brings contradictions to a head much quicker than before.
It may be that through the Facebook experiment, people on opposite sides of conflicts will find they have more in common than they expected. It may also be that some contradictions cannot be reconciled, because many people are unwilling to give up their desires and ambitions, and would rather fight than settle for an unsatisfactory status quo. The Internet may actually accelerate conflict as it brings to the surface long held grievances that in some cases have simmered for centuries. The one thing that does seem certain is that the experiment will go on, and things previously hidden will continue to be revealed, releasing enormous amounts of energy that will have highly unpredictable consequences.