Monday, December 29, 2008

It is the time to change

Many things have changed in 2008. The first time people in United States elected an African-American president. Through probably the most breathtaking Olympic game in history, China dramatically declared its rise once again being a leading nation of the world. And, we had the worst global recession (or a new great depression) since 1929. Any one of these events might have made a year be unusual, let it alone in 2008 we had all of them, and ... more.

In 2008, we experienced the heartbreaking earthquake that took the life of tens of thousands people. In 2008, we witnessed the astonishing swing of the oil price. In 2008, we watched the dramatic drop of the Web 2.0 hype. Also in 2008, the reality proved that the lasting financial risk computational model is indeed unsustainable.

What do all these events tell? Change is happening.

The American people look for change, and they have "changed" the skin color of their president.

The Chinese people look for change, and they have "changed" the image of China in the mind of people during the last two centuries.

The world itself, however, warns us what kind of "change" we should pursue for sustainable growth in our environment and our society through both of the natural disasters such as the SiChuan earthquake and the social crisis such as the largest economic recession since 1929.

In 2009, changes will continue. At Thinking Space I am going to launch a new series sharing my readings of what is changing. Look forward to your comments.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

7 best thoughts at Thinking Space 2008

To be my 2008 Christmas gift for the Thinking Space readers, these are the 7 best thoughts blogged in 2008 out of more than 100 original ones. Wish all of you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

7. The wisdom of crowds and the Brownian motion

The wisdom of crowds is a basic theory backing Web 2.0. The theory is, however, a reflection of a common physical phenomenon, the Brownian motion, in human society. The thought that the wisdom of crowds is the Brownian motion in human society was blogged in January 2008.

If this comparison is reasonable, there are general connections between the known physical laws and the unknown Web regulations. It thus may provide us a hint for the Web Science research. For example, since we can calculate the macroscopic velocity and direction of a flow based on the fluid dynamics computation over the microscopic-scale Brownian motion data of the flow, may we analogically compute the macroscopic behaviors of wisdom of crowds on the Web? Yes we can, can't we?

6. Automatic Character Switch (ACtS)

Automatic Character Switch (ACtS) is a proposed mechanism by myself to operate the resources produced by Web 2.0. In April 2007 I coined the term when I described my prediction of the next generation of World Wide Web based on the Web evolution model. In February 2008, I reused the proposed mechanism as a resolution for the issue of Web resource portability.

Although people think of Web 3.0 differently, something similar to ACtS should be an essential part of the picture of resolution. The ACtS intends to solving the problem of online identity overload, a milestone towards Web 3.0.

5. The expanding Web

The Web is expanding, and it expands simultaneously at the physical field, the computational field, the communicative field, and the financial field. I blogged this thought at Internet Evolution in October 2008.

We must know that the Web is growing in more than one aspect. We are seeing more variety of devices accessing the Web, more different methods to consume Web resources, better instant communication among Web users, and we start to construct new forms of asset because of the Web evolution. Only by well understanding these varieties of Web expansion, we may indeed get the purpose of Web evolution.

4. Invariants on the Web

Although the Web changes all the time, learning the unchanged side of the Web will help us understand better of the Web, and eventually let us be able to invent the changes we expect. The July 2008 post of Web invariants is about this topic.

In tradition, we have invented URI (references to facts) being a fundamental Web invariant. But the reference to a fact is essentially different from the fact itself. Therefore, it is questionable to enforce object reference replacing object itself being invariant. By contrast, may we ask epistemological procedure and Web thread (two more essential characters of objects) to new Web invariants?

3. Mind asset

The current economic crisis is due to the abuse of capital, the essence of the capitalist business. Hence some fundamental change of business must be done in order to avoid this sort of crisis in the future. On the other hand, if the change is done so fundamental to our society, wouldn't it lead our society into a new age? When people start to talk about new DNA of the next generation business, the new DNA I believe is the mind asset, which I have blogged since May 2008.

Mind asset is a compound new concept. In brief, it means a revolutionary way of monetizing human thinking. It claims that the general driving force of production is shifting gradually from capital to human mind. In the other words, mind starts to conduct money in contrast to money buys mind. This shift of power of production assigns thinkers a new role in the coming new society.

2. Mind, a universal fundamental in addition to mass and energy

Mind is always a mysterious thing. We hardly know where it comes and where it goes. After reading Seth Lloyd's brilliant book "Programming the Universe" at September 2008, I started to wonder whether the relationship between mind and mass is the same as the relationship between wave and particle. If this analogy truly holds, mind is another universal fundamental in the world in addition to mass and energy.

All of us exists in waves (the form of mind) when we are not under detection either by other persons or by ourselves. Once we are detected (i.e., once the consciousness starts to work), however, we see each other existed in particles (the form of mass) only. At the same time, mind remains existing such as when we think since at the moment the mind is out of any external detector. Therefore, the mind still exists in waves and remains being mind (instead of being materialized). If the former interpretation be correct, an exciting conclusion would be that we could invent a new type of mind detector to transform any thinking into mass immediately. This invention, if ever it could be realized, would bring our world new form of energy we cannot imagine.

1. Great transition, happening at the global scale

We are in a new transition, part 1 and part 2. This is probably the most critical message of today. Capitalism is dying. We are moving to a new age of human society, which is, however, neither the socialism nor the communism. Along with Adam Lindemann, I would like to call this new time the mind age (or the harmonious age by emphasizing the harmonious union of all human mind).

From land to capital then to mind, the most valuable (and the most essential) asset of human society is evolving. This fundamental evolution is beyond any other progress happening in our society. This is really what we need to be aware and what we should try to follow.

Through the post, I thank my savior and father in heaven, Jesus Christ, who give me wisdom and the ability of thinking. Happy birthday!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A good news for online retailers, but one more little thing

ReadWriteWeb has reported today that although economy is slow, online sales are going strong. This news somehow supports my prediction that the golden time of World Wide Web is coming. When more and more people have to stay at home because of the economic downturn, they are on the Web.

At the same time, now people are trying to buy cheaper stuff. The Web allows us to compare the price of a product in different retailers so that we may easily get the best deal. And we do not need to drive to the local stores, which again saves a few bucks.

There is, however, one more little thing that is worth of considering by the retailers: try their best to remove the shipping and handling fee. Amazon has done it quite well. With a moderate line of purchase, the Amazon customers get free shipping and handling. Believe it or not, this little thing may somehow be a determining factor, especially in this economic hard time. One dollar higher in price might be accepted by a little bit superior in quality (either on the product or on its service). One dollar on shipping and handling is, however, nothing but an overhead.

The coming of the golden time does not mean that we can now be careless on running the online services. On the contrary, now the online retailers must be more careful in details than ever because they might never get a better chance to enlarge the base of their customers, if they could not do well in this period of time.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Big Idea

Big ideas have inspired us, and the inspirations last. However, is our time still an age of big ideas, such as the age of the 18th century when many great thinkers and innovators emerged? Moreover, what on earth is big idea? The following talk is inspiring if one is interested in thinking.

Add IPM Radio4's channel to your page

My comment on big ideas

1) Big ideas inspire people. Big ideas bring people hope, happiness, and courage. A big idea is not a theory even if it might be represented as a theory. A big idea is a charge of activity to people's life.

2) Big idea does not have to new idea. Read history, think of history, and discover the lost thoughts; this is also big idea.

3) Big ideas are not necessarily be original in its essence, while practical big ideas are always truly original in its instant interpretation. Try less on inventing big because it demands luckiness. But try harder on interpreting novel since it requires only diligence and persistence.

4) The emergence of a big idea demands collaboration. Due to the prevalence of World Wide Web, may new collaborative thinking services (such as Imindi) help us approach the new-age big ideas? I am optimistic to it. To the end, we are approaching the big ideas collectively, in contrast to thinking of the big ideas individually.

Monday, December 08, 2008

How to construct a high quality ontology?

More and more people start to understand and use the term "ontology" when discussing machine intelligence. Informally, an ontology is a set of specified human intelligence that machines can run automatically. How to build ontologies with high quality, however, remains being a hard problem.

In general, an ontology construction procedure has four steps:

• Identify purpose
• Encode content
• Evaluate construction
• Document product

Among the four steps, identify purpose is the first, the most crucial, and the hardest stage. We often have dozens (if not hundreds) varied ways of describing a domain. Many times, however, there is only one best resolution with respect to a designated purpose. Unless we have precisely identified the purpose at the beginning, we often result in low-quality ontologies that can cause much trouble in a long term.

In principle, there are five ways to identify the purpose for an ontology construction assignment.

(1) Decide goal. We obtain a precise description of the target domain, from which we capture the key entities and relationship sets. This is a typical middle-out ontology construction methodology.

(2) Describe scenario. We obtain a set of competency questions about the application scenario. From the scenario descriptions we define the entities and relationship sets. By applying these entities and relationship sets we should be able to precisely express the questions as well as the potential answers to the questions. This is also a middle-out ontology construction methodology.

(3) Narrow down domain description. Start with a general and broad description of the target domain, we gradually winnow the unrelated portions out of the scope until the remainder becomes satisfactory. This is a typical top-domain methodology.

(4) Determine typical activity. This methodology is particularly useful for creating the service-oriented ontologies. In this case, ontologies are created not for domain description but for application presentation. Thus, we need detailed service activity descriptions to build the right ontologies. This methodology is middle-out.

(5) Grow seeds. To produce an ontology for a broad domain, sometime it is easier to start with building a few small ontologies as the seeds. Then we can gradually grow these seed ontologies by adding them more concepts and relationships and connecting them when appropriate until we reach the final goal. This is a typical bottom-up sequence of ontology construction. To properly execute the method, it demands well understanding of many subtle ontology technologies such as modular ontology and ontology reuse.

In real practices, ontology developers need to carefully choose the proper methodology of purpose identification according to their particular assignment. A bad choice often leads to longer time of development and poorer quality of the results. This first step is indeed tough but truly crucial for creating high quality ontologies.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Some quick thoughts on Qi Lu's new appointment

Qi Lu, a former high profile Yahoo, joined Microsoft to help the traditional software giant fighting against the newly rising Google. I have a few quick thoughts of this news in the following. Readers who are interested in learning more of this news can read more reports from TechMeme. In particular, Kara Swisher at BoomTown had a unique interpretation of Ballmer's email.

(1) Congratulation to Qi! Great move, personally. Especially as a Chinese myself, I sincerely wish him the best being a great China-born technology leader.

(2) Will Live Search be reformed under the new leadership and be able to compete to Google? Cautiously, I doubt. Allow me be straight. If Qi has not led a compelling plan to compete Google under the visionary leadership of Jerry Yang, could he accomplish this hard assignment under the practical leadership of Steve Ballmer? Unquestionably Qi is a great Guru in the realm of search engine design and operation. However, it is impossible to defeat Google by following the Google way (i.e. the traditional thinking of Web search). Is the experiences that Microsoft lacks at this moment? I question it. Microsoft does not lack of experiences; and experiences can hardly help Microsoft fight Google. What Microsoft lacks is, ironically, the opposite, i.e., the less-experienced fresh soul of innovation. We have to be realistic that there are not many Steve Jobs in this world. Therefore, though I am pleased of Qi's appointment and believe in Qi's contribution to Live Search, this appointment is less than enough for Microsoft to threat Google.

(3) Microsoft seems having abandoned the plan of purchasing the Yahoo Search. It is good for Microsoft; and it is good for Yahoo. I am still looking forward to the newest experiments of BOSS and Search Monkey Yahoo is performing. The worst thing is that they might become another PowerSet.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Where do Thinking Space readers come from?

Join Fujifilm Medical Systems

FujiSome of you may have already known. I am joining Fujifilm Medical Systems USA (FMSU). Headquartered in Stamford, CT, FMSU is a leading provider of medical image and information products and technologies for acquiring, processing, presenting, managing and storing diagnostic images.

My duty as informatic architect at FMSU is to help the company design and produce a cutting-edge, Semantic-Web-compatible service that may eventually lift the present services for the medical devices onto a new level. The project is innovative. (If you regularly follow my blog, you should know when I say one thing being innovative, it is often more than just being innovative.) In few years, I foresee this new service produced at Fuji Medical Systems to be one of the classic examples of the Web-3.0 services.