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Supernova: Howard Rheingold

I'm looking forward to Howard's presentation. It may well be a revelation to kick off a technology conference with a focus on social implications. I sure hope it makes the tech heads think. Many in the audience have probably read his book Smart Mobs.

Introducing collective action --- imploring us to take a look at the terrain from 60000 feet. His contention this that---every time power is decentralized there is new opportunity for new collective action. The audience responds to this theme. Howard’s objective is to provide examples of things that may be coming. His purpose to stimulate the understanding and debate - not only about technology, but socially, politically, and for innovation.

An interesting aspect of his presentation was around trust and reputation systems. Clearly a huge area for experimentation. So iImagine a world where connections are mobile in the street and not limited to a room PC. There are quite some hurdles to go to get there.

Notes and words from Howard’s presentation:

Starting with texting messaging, and introducing flocking. Borrowing examples from the book. How do young kids all arrive at a destination to hang out all at the same time? How was Astrada over thown in the Phillipines by thousands arriving within minutes in the square all wearing black. They are all mobilizing by text messaging. Text enables easy forwarding with two thumb strokes they send it on to everyone.

HR sees a threshold being crossed where the obstacles have been lowered and new forms of collective action empoweered as a consequence of these new technologies. HR thinking seeing something that is the beginning of a cycle just like the PC 80, Internet 90. Characteristics that come to mind. Two techs converging.. to make a third technology that is not easily predictable, (Eg PC to telephone --- got the internet.) the critical uncertainty here. The users of the technology shaped the medium that emerged. If it hadn’t been for the teenage enthusiasts, or the millions putting up web pages, where would we be?

Notes: Technology that happened by collective action… 4 billion web pages in 2000 days. Moore’s law etc. hold today in hand 1000 time the power vs 1980, at 1/5 of the price.

Mini internet terminals we are now carrying around. What happens when we have them 1000 times faster than today? P2P methodologies point towards something. Eg Napster 70 million people put their hard disks together. The architecture of the way that it was put together made it certain that it would continue. Eg the Seti at home example.

Science is a form of collective action.

Alphabet was a tool for encoding knowledge. The printing press created the opportunity for literacy to be decentralized. Large groups begin to think they can solve things themselves. Many people taught how to do experiments. Each time new forms of collective action emerge. Doesn’t mean utopia is round the corner. Will be new benfits and pitfalls.

The telephone reaches places that the PC never did. Eg fishermen in gulf of Arabia. In the slums people San Paulo people are using telephones, those that didin’t have it before. Technology is widening the pool of potential contributors. It is also going into every part of the day Changing when and how time is dealt with. Predicts it will have significant impact on cities very quickly!!!

Another element --- whether reputation systems will evolve to find people with similar needs. Markets are a form of collective action! Money is a result of a meta communication and trust system that has evolved over the last five hundred years. If you could ask in your telephone to offer a ride to work, who is someone I would trust, enable ride-sharing, could you run a reputation system that doesn’t require people to fill out forms. Don’t watch what people say watch what they do. Eg Repeat riders, vs non repeat riders. LOTS of room for experimentation. Know from Internet that you can share with people that have common interests. For the most part the connections are made by people alone in rooms. Now take it to the streets, Dates, bicycle to sell, etc, when it becomes possible when you can identify and qualify those people. Is is rally a farfetched specutialiton. These devices do know where we are. Eg Cell phones. The Survelance possibilities. Danger, What do my friend say about it? I’m new etc. Will the associations be open or closed? Eg at 5th and main?

Also possible to information into things over the next few years. RFID tags. Labels are political objects. Will that information become open? Recent Experiment. Laptop and wireless connection, UPC to Google. First object box of prunes. The vendor of the prunes was Sun Diamond First reference… US vs Sun Diamond Cooperative… Bromide barrons, subvert democratic process, largest contributor to methyl bromide. The friend cracked open the closed system… by connecting it to google. Kellogg Crackling… FDA warning, unlabed egg and dariy…

How does information, and things and people with this capability to link in their pocket think? .... How does it change how you go through the world and with whom??? Those are really the questions. There are important political discussions going over all of the structures we are talking about. Whether spectrum labels, etc. All have to do with two things. Closed systems trying to maintain their closure, vs… Who controls innovations. Will this platform again be some thing part oa a platform you can innovate around. The more people understand the more opportunity.

Power and knowledge there is a cycle between d and c what people know and how quickly is a component of power.

How open a system will Google remain? Would a change make it less useful. Is there competition in what you search for? What will be controlled?

Comments: Discussion…
How do we translate these thoughts into sustainable collective action? Are there mistakes we might learn from?

The freedom to innovate.. Need to get the message out. HR when talking about scenarios. Interesting to look at demographics, eg texting. The ones most adept are 15 years old. Not seeing it so much here. But there is a 15-20 years old group now to use and summon social networks. They are tuned to using this technology to to gain control. People are very accustomed to affect things. 10 years form now they will bbe 25 and the tool that they hold will be a lot more powerful. How do you communicate with them. And over the long run how those people see the technologies they have and use. If every idle moment is taken up with communication …. Do we lose something? Opinion on the matter may be dependent on how old you are. These 15 year olds may have very different perspectives.

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