Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mind, Gene, Spirit

According to Wired, scientists have started to study how brains are expressed in genes. In the other words, which portion of human genes decides the growth of brain in contrast to controlling the growth of the other part of our bodies such as hand and foot?

Is this project interesting? Certainly. Based on the assumption that most of the human behaviors are controlled and determined by brains, the project, if ever it would succeed, might reveal us the answer of a question in long history---where thinking comes. But, is the assumption as sound as it appears being?

This blog intends to share creative product of human mind. In fact, the name of the blog is about thinking---an unique mind behavior. Philosophically, however, I always believe that mind is not only a product of mass computation but also (and more crucially) a product of spirit inspiration.

I do not lean to the viewpoint that Newton thought of the Universal Law of Gravitation under the apple tree was primarily due to some weird, unusual, but fascinating chemical reaction occasionally occurred in his brain at the moment. If it were the case, why in nowadays we witness much less great discoveries, innovations, and philosophies than a few centuries ago, while we are in an age that not only significantly outnumbers our ancestors, but also is much more knowledgeable in general than our ancestors. If genius thought is primarily due to unusual mass computation in brains and we agree to that the whole set of knowledge unknown is infinite, we certainly should already have many Newton-like scientists in these centuries. In reality obviously we have few. But the number is incomparable to the number if it truly follows a normal random theory, which it should be only if our thinking really is decided by the objective mass-based brain computation.

I believe the existence of spirit and God. The project may lead to great results. But it cannot answer the question we wish to be answered.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Internet is not for Information, yet!" in China

Gang Lu has a brilliant post about microblogging in China. In the post, he shared that in China "Internet is not for Information, yet!" The quote is indeed a crucial point that all western Internet businesses must learn to be successful at China. Due to various reasons (especially the political reasons as well as some sort of historical tradition), Internet in China is not about information, it's about entertainment. This insight is a modern interpretation of a long-history idiom in Chinese history---莫谈国事 (do not talk on the affairs of state).

Until now, 莫谈国事 is still an important part of the life of Chinese. The emergence of World Wide Web (supposed to be able to change the custom) has not been able to change it yet. Lu's post tells us that the idiom has only extended its influence from the real world to the virtual world in China.

Xu Jinglei (Chinese: 徐静蕾), one of the most well-known celebrities in China and whose blog is known to be the No.1 personal blog in visiting numbers in China (and probably in the world). She is known to be a belle not only in her appearance, but also in her mind and brain. However, 莫谈国事 is also one of her maxim to ensure the popularity of her blog in China. In fact, the Chinese Characters 莫谈国事, reading from right to left, shown above is written by Miss Xu.

Certainly, however, it is not a duty for western Internet business to try to change the culture. By contrast, they need to learn to be customized for the culture to succeed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Art and Engineering

How to be a successful business? How to be a successful Internet business? These questions puzzled many entrepreneurs; and the puzzle continues. Set the puzzle be the background, it makes us better understand the recent declared Google departure by Douglas Bowman.

I am sympathizing Bowman's experiences. However, history tells us that it takes time for business to evolve from engineering-dominating to art-dominating, though such an evolution is nearly certain. The reason is not hard to explain. In the beginning, novel innovation on technology breaks the wall and starts a new sector of business. It is like the Google at present. When time moves forward, technology becomes mature. Thus, art in design becomes a dominant power to determine the fate of business.

Bowman, the future stands beside you.

"only three things on the Internet that have made money"

A recent New York Times Technology article reports an interesting interview with Steve Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft. Yet the article does not really address much news that is truly new to us, I am particularly interested in a sentence spoken by Mr. Ballmer.

"There are only three things on the Internet that have made money: Amazon, eBay and Google."

Mr. Ballmer intuitively recognized what I mentioned about Web evolution. There are three basic types of Web resources that are accumulated in the evolution of the Web---data, services, and links. A successful Internet business is the one that can embody one type of human mind to a form of valuable asset on the Web. Coincidentally, I have also used Amazon, eBay, and Google as the examples that have successfully embodied static mind asset (data), dynamic mind asset (service), and connective mind asset (link) respectively. So, I have a few last words to tell Mr. Ballmer: please, the successfulness is not because search leads to money, but due to implementing a successful way of constructing profitable mind asset.

Consciousness has no single "seat" in brain

NewScientist has an interesting summary of some newest progress on consciousness research. One statement, however, catches my attention and thinking. It is said that "Consciousness is more a question of dynamics, than of a local activity."

What does it mean when we embody consciousness onto the Web? This was the question I was thinking when reading the line. When originally we mention collective consciousness on the Web, we think of a group of embodied and "seated" mind and make them collaborate each other. Now I am curious to think whether collaborative consciousness is indeed the consciousness itself. That is, there is actually no consciousness when there is no collaborative. If we apply this thought to the research of linked data, however, it means that actually every individual piece of data itself should not be the center of issue. By contrast, a mechanism of collaboration among the whatever data is much more valuable and essential. I am wondering whether this is indeed the problem behind the present, slowly progressing achievement of linked data.

"Every true history is contemporary history"

"Every true history," said Benedetto Croce, "is contemporary history."

Croce is an idealist philosopher who scorned the materialist theorists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Hegel. Normally, the materialists attempt to reduce history to a few objective principles; hence not only that history has one unique truth, but also that we may look into the future of the history by tracing the path of the truth. By contrast, the idealists such as Croce and Rousseau believe that history is a series of lies. The written history is thus whatever we CHOOSE to be the closest to the truth.

Basically, my view of history is materialist. In fact, my model of Web evolution is grounded on the assumption that there exist objective laws guiding the growth of World Wide Web.

On the other hand, however, I agree to Croce's famous quote, especially when we look at it in another angle. When Croce said every true history is contemporary history, I would rather assume his emphasis was that history truly repeated itself. Moreover, any contemporary history is nothing but a repeated cycle that has happened before. This is indeed another implicit thought behind my model of Web evolution. In the model, I have analogized the evolution of the Web to the growth of mind of human beings. Web evolution is a piece of contemporary history, while the growth of mind of human beings is something that happened before (and now also of course). There is indeed nothing really new under the sun with respect to history.

Friday, March 13, 2009

World Wide Web, 20 years

20th20 years, it is just a short time period in history. But when we look it back, it is hard for us to imagine how we lived 20 years ago without all the convenience we have now. This last 20 years is one of the most revolutionary 20-year periods (if not the most revolutionary period) in human history. Numerous influential innovations and remarkable events occurred during the period just because of one meanwhile-insignificant invention---World Wide Web.

Happy anniversary, Web!

World Wide Web was born in a computer in somewhere Europe. However, someone predicts it to become a "big machine" again in the future.

WWW has others names. By the inventor, WWW may also be called III (International Information Infrastructure) or GGG (Giant Global Graph). Probably you may get a few inspiration out of these alternatives.

World Wide Web may also been watched differently. It is a network of computers, a platform of computation, a society of communication, and a factory of information production. Moreover, it will be a market of mind asset.

World Wide Web is growing, evolving, advancing. When it evolves, growing are also our intrinsic selves. It is not only that we are upgrading the Web; the Web is changing us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Aardvark, and invitation available

Mechanical Zoo finally unveils its first product---Aardvark. The product is now in its formal public beta.

The present Aardvark can be summarized as Twitter in Q&A. It allows users to ask any questions, and then the service forwards the questions to the other users who have declared to be somehow knowledgeable on and interested in answering the questions to answer. At the beginning of the service subscription, every Aardvark user must specify at least three keywords on what they are interested and probably be knowledgeable.

I have tested the service by asking "how do you think of Aardvark?" And I got a few answers shortly after. Max Ventilla, the CEO and co-founder of Mechanical Zoo answered by saying that "I think that I get information from two key places: from the web and from people. It's trivially easy to get information from the web assuming I'm looking for public/objective info. It's really hard to get info from the people I know and their friends if I'm not into constantly spamming people. Aardvark solves that second need once enough of my friends are shared contacts with Aardvark or once I integrate my FB social graph." Well, this is truly the motivation behind Aardvark.

Aardvark is a place you may ask subjective questions and get subjective answers. This is an exciting point of the service. Although earlier services such as Mahalo and ChaCha do the same thing, apparently Aardvark may serve the users better by well directing the questions to the ones who may answer in high quality. This was the main topic Max and I shared at April last year in a phone interview. When answering my previous question, Nicholas C. at Mechanical Zoo said, "i think of aardvark as a gateway to my friends' knowledge." That's it!

Before Mechanical Zoo, I was wondering whether Twine might be in this form when the service was just published in 2007. Apparently, however, it is not. But the cooperation between Twine and Aardvark could be an interesting event to watch in the future.

Another interesting thought I am wondering now is how Twitter may act after this Aardvark beta. I cannot see why Twitter cannot add an Aardvark-like service into its current platform in short period of time. Based on the popularity Twitter has at present, it is very difficult for the young Aardvark to compete against.

Certainly, on the other hand, Aardvark has its own problems. For example, how to well filter spam? Please be note that for Aardvark, when answers are subjective, spams are also subjective. Has Aardvark truly addressed how to resolve the problem? I expect, but I am not confident of their solution at this moment.

And there are more intrinsic issues of the service that I cannot share at this moment (due to varied reasons). But this service is still definitely worth of being tried. I have a couple of invitations available. If you are interested in it, please leave a comment. I will send the invitation in order until it runs out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your online identity is a treasure inheritable

Everyday, we may witness some brilliant new business idea emerging. Legacy Locker shines today.

The intuition behind Legacy Locker is to prevent the loss of the private information after the death (especially in the case of sudden, unpredicted death) of individuals. This is a simple idea but very practical and valuable. When the Web has been involved deeper and deeper into our daily life, many of us do have much valuable information online that we do not want to lose even after our death. Typically, much of the information is what we have learned and saved as treasure. Hence we may wish the significant others to inherit the treasure when we pass away. Therefore it comes Legacy Locker.

This is an imperfect example of mind asset. But it is.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Swoopo: not an auction site

A $79.16 MacBook? ZDNet today has an interesting article about a new online "auction" service---swoopo. After reading the article and watching the site, I have a conclusion, however, that swoopo is indeed not an auction site. The site sells lottery!

The founders are the true "evil genius" as Sam Diaz said in his post. They have created a site selling lotteries in the form of "auction"! What they do is that they split everything into mini-slices, 75 cents per slice, number INDEFINITELY. Then they sell the slices in contrast to sell the product! Therefore, like any other lottery games, it actually does not matter how much the real product is worth. The only thing matters is how many people want to try their luck. Ideally, the more precious the product is, the more people may want to try the luck. There goes the scheme.

The $79.16 MacBook is really a small potato, though the site actually profited $4,638 from this $79.16 SALE! Don't be amazed, however, this is just exactly how lottery gains money.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Transition to Web 3.0, a baby early-born

All of a sudden, Web 2.0 fades. Not long ago, people still spoke the buzzword enthusiastically. Nearly every new startup advertises itself Web 2.0. It was a synonym of fashion and cutting-edge. Now things went to the opposite dramatically. In the most recent DEMO 2009 conference, the "Web 2.0" buzz nearly disappeared. Web 2.0 is a trend no longer. From Boston to San Francisco, people are talking about Web 3.0.

However, is now the time of Web 3.0 to be born? Despite I am an active advocate of Web evolution and unquestionably believe the coming of Web 3.0, I am afraid that the transition to Web 3.0 we discuss at present is a poor early-born baby.

The key here is that the true problems of Web 2.0 are not well understood by the majority of the public yet. Most of the entrepreneurs think of change only because of the occurred financial crisis in contrast to having recognized the true problems beneath the present model of social networking and collective intelligence. Hence when they discuss the transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, indeed they do not know where they are heading. They have sensed the need for change, while they do not know what the right change should be. Hence many of them just try to carry the same thoughts of Web 2.0 to enter Web 3.0. The CNN Money article at January this year typically represents this misconception in the business sector. As we know, however, that “no one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else the new wine will burst the skins … But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins, …” (from Holy Bible, Lurk 5:37)

The importance of the research of Web evolution is still unaware by the main public, even among the elite researchers. Web 3.0 is coming, but not in the way many people think at present. The time is not totally ready yet, thought the transition truly has started. Thus, I would predict the transition would last longer than we expect.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Web Science 2009 Conference in two weeks

Web Science 2009 conference is coming in two weeks at Athens, Greece. The theme of this year is "Society On-Line". It would be an exciting event.

I have a paper accepted by the conference. The paper is about the model of Web evolution that I have posted before in this blog. To be a formal academic paper, however, I have substantially revised the presentation of the model. Furthermore, I have also uploaded a poster to the conference. So if you are attending the conference, please take a look at the poster. Unfortunately, however, I cannot attend the conference in person due to the time conflict to the project I am working on at present. I do wish, however, that this conference be a great event to prompt not only the research of Web Science but also the evolution of World Wide Web itself.