We squander talent as if we didn't need it. We allow our most precious resource to lie unused in millions of citizens. We develop social networks that contain tremendous value and fritter it away.
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As Ray Kurzweil pointed out in this 2006 TEDTalk, Moore's Law has long made it evident that silicon-based computing power would soon match that of the human brain. Add to that our increasingly sophisticated prosthetic design and implantation technology, and it's pretty clear that by mid-century, at the latest, hybrid human-machine life forms will be theoretically possible. Kurzweil called this moment, "the singularity."
At this year's TED, memologist Susan Blackmore suggested that technology is already replicating itself via humans, a highly radical notion if you stop to think of it.
Point is, these ideas always frighten us. Visions of scenes of villagers with torches come to mind as Dr. Frankenstein's monster terrorizes the countryside.
I wonder when we're going to be able to have straightforward conversations about this inevitability. Probably not for a while, huh? Especially with Oxford neuroscientists raising the specter of lost individuality as the inevitable outcome of our continued use/dependency on technology.
Clay Shirky's talk at last week's Web 2.0 Conference is up, here.
We have come to accept the assumption that time is a finite
resource. Which, of course, it is, if you take status quo as baseline.
So, if you continue to work X number of hours and sleep Y what's left is Z. And Z, of course, is already spoken for, or else you'd be sitting around doing nothing, which you're not.
Ah, but Z is the big opportunity. Why? Well, right now, you're reading the paper in Z-time. You're going to the movies in Z-time. Or, you're watching Lost. Shirky calls Z-time our "cognitive surplus."
What we know, however, is that much of what used to happen in Z-time ain't happening anymore. Newspaper readership; down. Movie-going; down. TV viewership; down.
Well, what are we doing with our Z-time then?
Blogging. Making videos. Recording podcasts. Uploading photos to Flickr. Commenting. Twittering.
In short, we're creating stuff. Some of us more than others, for
now, but all of us getting used to the idea that we, all of us, are
creators and not simply "consumers" of material. All of us care enough
about something to say something about it, write about it, take a
picture of it or comment on somebody else's take on it.
And, to do that, we need, metaphorically, a mouse. So, Shirky says:
was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one
of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter
watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she
jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems
like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is
really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing.
She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What
you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen
and said, "Looking for the mouse."
Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships
broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not
be worth sitting still for.
Read the piece. Hey, it's your Z-time, use it wisely.
Many of us decry the state of our world by using that phrase of mysterious origin: "we're going to hell in a handbasket." Kids beating kids on YouTube vids for the lulz, Olympic torches under attack everywhere, Iraq, Darfur...on and on.
But, that's not the whole story. I made the following video in response to a thoughtful one by an American living in Japan. In it, I lean heavily on Steve Pinker's terrific TED 2007 presentation, which is worth every minute to watch. Hope you enjoy it.
Oh, and by the way, bonus points for the people who can point out the relationship of the post's title to the video!
I've been using Twitter fairly heavily for the past couple of months. Before that, it was a curiosity. As I've become more comfortable with it, I've started following more strangers. My system for choosing whom to follow has been fairly simply: I'll look at links and @name replies (if you're not a Twitterer, the "@" sign designates a "tweet" [what Twitter users call each individual post] as a public direct reply to an individual) in the tweets of people I currently follow. That way, I've come upon an array of interesting folks I'd never have discovered otherwise. So far, I'm following slightly over 200 people.
Now, that might sound overwhelming. And, if I tried to follow every single thing that every one of those 200+ people posted, it would be. But I don't. Instead, I'm approaching Twitter like I approach the New York Times.
When I pick up each morning's edition of the Times, there are some sections I read religiously (yup, Sports is almost always first) and some I get to if I have time (Arts). If I have a little more time, I flip through the entire paper, simply looking for things that pop out at me. I think all of us have had that great experience of sitting down on a Saturday or Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and just meandering through our favorite newspaper. I always find unexpected, interesting things when I do that.
Same with Twitter. I'll open my Twitter page in the morning and look for posts from some of my favorite people. I scan the page, looking for those names. If I don't find one (rare) I'll hit the "Older" button until I do. Then, click on the person's name link and, presto, you've got all their tweets in chrono order. I'll do that for a few folks and, if I have time, go back to the Friends timeline to begin the "flipping" process.
Now, this undoubtedly means that I will miss great material. Just like I do in the Times on those days when I don't have "flipping leisure time." Some of those things I'll pick up by virtue of others' references; others are gone for posterity. So what? You can't pick up everything, after all, and you have to trust that you'll eventually find the valuable stuff if you work at it.
If you're a Twitterer, I 'd be very interested in hearing your approach for using this amazing resource...that is, if you can get our newfangled Disqus-driven comments to work!
In a socially-networked world which presents a humongous number of choices, who do you connect with?
For me, some connections are purely topical. If I'm interested in a particular subject domain, I look for experts in that domain and follow them. I am seeking their ideas, information, knowledge, influence about something in particular. This is why I watch Mario Batali or listen to Mike And The Mad Dog. For me, they excel in their domain-expertise. I listen to them because I'm interested in "what" they're talking about.
But other connections are more broad-based. This is the case when you find someone whose perspective, point of view, mindset is, in itself, interesting. I am interested in this person's "take" on things, no matter what those things might be. This is why I eagerly await anything by Malcolm Gladwell, Frank Rich, Van Morrison or the Coen Brothers. I listen to them because I'm interested in "how" they talk about things.
Vertical social networks, focusing on specific subject domains (everything from auto racing to knitting) are springing up everywhere. The question I have pertains to their sustainability. Unless I'm really, really, really (yup, three reallys) into a domain, I'm much more likely to seek out interesting people so that I can get their perspective on a wide-range of issues. I guess this is related to me being a fox rather than a hedgehog, but I wouldn't swear to it.
How about you? Whom do you find yourself engaging more frequently: "what" or "how" people?
Sometimes it's hard for those of us who blog and vlog, who spend time on Twitter, Seesmic, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and who knows what else every day to remember that we're crazy.
I mean, only crazy people are as far ahead of the curve as we are. Like Lennon said, "Imagine all the people..." just going about their lives, oblivious of the technologies they'll be adopting next year and the year after that.
That's the subject of this lengthy video. I'd very much appreciate your comments.