The Human-Human Interface


Network Infrastructure for the Neurosphere

I have seen proposals to deliver high speed internet access over electric power lines, by a network of 870 low earth orbit satellites, even by bouncing signals off meteors. I don’t believe this one is a business either, but I really want them to try.

“The latest broadband delivery system has seen researchers looking to the skies to provide super-fast internet access via airships. Airships in the stratosphere beaming back broadband capable of speeds up to 120Mbps may seem like fantasy. But tests in Sweden have suggested it could become a reality within three to five years.”

(Tip of the neurohat to FUTUREdition newsletter from the Arlington Institute)

Global (Bird)Brain

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

An old Washington Post story, about bird watchers forming an extremely large, and intriguingly active, virtual community, inspiring references to Teilhard.

“Suppose the Earth is all one big single living organism, with all the elements of it — from the people to the birds — connected like cells in a body. Suppose the goal of evolution is to link up individual human minds, bringing an explosion of intelligence and even global consciousness to this mammoth being…That’s not the earth-moving part, however. The earth-moving part — literally — is that, as a result, a movement is spontaneously emerging that alters the physical nature of the planet so as to make it more amenable to the birds that are indicator species of global environmental health. Some of this is as simple as town-house owners deciding to plant lobelia in their back yards because these flowers please hummingbirds.”

“This is just an example where the Web is mediating a collective thought process that has feedback effects. It is affecting the distribution of the species,” says Robert Wright, author of “The Moral Animal.” It is reminiscent, Wright says, of Teilhard’s idea that technology would connect minds into a “brain for the biosphere as the human species consciously assumes stewardship of the planet.” It explains, he says, why “serious people take Teilhard seriously.”

More Big Thinking

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

This weblog recently has been somewhat heavy on the technology tracking and light on more explicit attention to the development of a Neurosphere. Here are some sites that pay direct or indirect attention to the phenomenon.

–Blog of Collective Intelligence

“CI means many things to many people. Here, it refers to the capacity of human communities to evolve towards higher order complexity and integration through collaboration and innovation. This blog wants to be an embodiment of what it is about.”

This one from a guy who was a formative influence on my thinking as the Neurosphere book took shape.

–Smart Mobs

“Website and Weblog about Topics and Issues discussed in the book?Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution? by Howard Rheingold

This one is not so active as in the past, but several papers herein take a rigorous intellectual approach to whether collective consciousness is a metaphor or a something more than that.

–Global Brain Group

“The Global Brain Group has been created to discuss the emergence of a global brain out of the computer network, which would function as a nervous system for the human superorganism. It promotes all theoretical and experimental work that may contribute to the elaboration of global brain theory, including the practical implementation of global brain-like computer systems, and the diffusion of global brain ideas towards a wider public, e.g. by the organization of conferences or publication of books on the subject.”


Network Infrastructure for the Neurosphere

Surely it is proof certain of the emergent global consciousness that grid computing technology has finally been applied to allow us to exchange TV programs with each other. A greater sharing of guilty pleasures.

“Kontiki’s patent-pending Grid Delivery Technology taps the unused resources of networked PCs and servers, allowing companies to securely deliver high quality video and software updates at a fraction of the cost of traditional delivery solutions.”

Digital Living

Network Infrastructure for the Neurosphere

In my day job, I contribute to the efforts of this group. Multilateral efforts like these come and go – it is very difficult, especially for large companies, to both embrace standards and still exploit competitive advantage through connectivity among their own devices in a proprietary way. Nevertheless, the inherent forces of evolution driven by individual users seems to force them into some accommodations with interoperability.

“Members of the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) share a vision of a wired and wireless interoperable network of Personal Computers (PC), Consumer Electronics (CE) and mobile devices in the home enabling a seamless environment for sharing and growing new digital media and content services…Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) today (On September 27, 2005) announced its Certification and Logo Program of the DLNA Home Networked Device Interoperability Guidelines 1.0. The program is aimed at verifying that products designed to the guidelines meet DLNA’s certification testing requirements.”

RFID Passports

Personal Infrastructure

RFID chips will become part of your passport starting next year. Another application that makes more sense right inside the body.

“The Department [of State] intends to begin the electronic passport program in December 2005. By October 2006, all U.S. passports, with the exception of a small number of emergency passports issued by U.S. embassies or consulates, will be electronic passports. The ICAO specification for use of contactless chip technology requires a minimum capacity of 32 kilobytes (KB). The U.S. has decided to use a 64KB chip to permit adequate storage room in case additional data, or biometric indicators such as fingerprints or iris scans, are included in the future.”

It’s probably not as a well known that biometric information (fingerprints, retinal scans) are part of current ports of entry procedures.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today the scheduled ?expansion of the US VISIT program’s biometric entry procedures to additional ?land border ports of entry (POE)…US-VISIT entry procedures have been operational in the secondary inspection areas of the 50 busiest land border ports of entry since December 29, 2004, ?and are also in place at 115 airports and 15 seaports.”


Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Here’s a virtual mega-community, ranging from Amnesty International to Worldwatch Institute. Keep informed or get involved, or preferably both.

“The OneWorld partnership network brings together more than 1,500 organizations from across the globe to promote sustainable development, social justice and human rights.”

Google Thinks Big

The World Right Now

Their market capitalization is around $100 billion, and their ambition is even bigger. You can already manually assemble links to various real-time space missions, but a Google interface can only help.

“Google and NASA share a common desire to bring the universe of information to people around the world,” said Eric Schmidt, the company’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Imagine having a wide selection of images from the Apollo space mission at your fingertips whenever you want it.”

The Thinking City

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Here’s a nice example tying the most portable type of technology (most portable while still external to the body) transforming the user into a part of a whole that she can perceive as a whole. The graphics are stand-alone works of art in themselves as well.

“Using anonymous cellphone data provided by the leading cellphone operator in Austria, A1/Mobilkom, the researchers developed the Mobile Landscapes project, creating electronic maps of cellphone use in the metropolitan area of Graz, Austria, the country’s second-largest city…”For the first time ever we are able to visualize the full dynamics of a city in real time,” said project leader Carlo Ratti, an architect/engineer and head of the SENSEable City Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This opens up new possibilities for urban studies and planning. The real-time city is now real: a system that is able to continuously sense its condition and can quickly react to its criticalities,” he added.”

Intelligent Buildings – Intelligent Inhabitants?

Network Infrastructure for the Neurosphere

One application of merged wireless sensors comes in the form of long-promised “intelligent buildings”.

“Next month, a host of new wireless gadgets designed to help make buildings and homes “smart” will debut at the ZigBee Open House and Exposition in Chicago. Among them will be a so-called domestic awareness system that warns you if the stove is left on or if the basement starts flooding. Another lets you network your home entertainment system with environmental controls such as light dimmers or a thermostat. The point of such a setup: to automatically set just the right mood when you’re watching DVDs or listening to music.”

Maybe we can find higher uses for evolving intelligence than setting the lighting for your next DVD experience. How about reducing our reliance on foreign oil?

“It is a little known fact that even on the annual peak day for electric use, the US needs only about 75% of its generating capacity. Without question there are many local areas that do not have enough generation, but of equal importance is the transmission and distribution grid. GridWise is focusing on both of these challenges by working to serve as the catalyst for developing the technology solutions that will make the grid self healing and improve reliability. 814 stimulated a substantial amount of investment in technology that notifies utilities of a fault in energy supply, and there have also been steps taken to improve intercommunication between utilities. In spite of all these efforts however, there is still no comprehensive intelligent system technology to optimize the performance of the grid. Think of an eBay style Internet Service that would allow utilities to not only wheel power between transmission and distribution systems, but more importantly would create an economic engine to allow energy trading between utilities and even energy users.”