Watson vs. Jennings

The best game show contestant on the best game show ever (Ken Jennings on Jeopardy) will soon compete against IBM’s Watson-class computer. Watson is favored to win. Today’s Watson technology requires a large room full of hardware. In 15 years, this same computing power will sit on a desktop. As we approach Turing-class computing (2050?), the power of today’s Watson computer will seem as quaint as the Sperry-Univac is today. I can envision a day when we no longer define religion in terms of having the “right knowledge.” I’m thinking David Hayward could do a cartoon showing three of the world’s leading religious thinkers as Jeopardy panelists – a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist – while Watson provides far deeper and more nuanced answers – even what we would call wisdom. And why not? With the entire written history of world religions (and every other branch of knowledge) in its memory (think Internet 2050), and thousands of increasingly nuanced processing algorithms at its disposal, it’s only a matter of time (perhaps 2 or 3 generations) before “epistebots” and “theobots” surpass the best human experts in their ability to parse and disseminate specific knowledge and even wisdom. Consider that this “entire body of human knowledge and wisdom” will one day be on every global desktop, in every language, in every home and mobile device, instantly accessible in deeply interactive and immersive ways we cannot imagine today. This is good news for religion, and humanity in general. As we are released from the need to define ourselves by tribal knowledge, we begin to define ourselves more relationally, more collectively, more empathically, more humanly. Even the perception of “enemy” must change as we begin to see ourselves as part of a larger global family. As we relax our desire and need for intellectual power, we can focus more on what makes us uniquely human:  our childlike awe and wonder at the universe and our ability to feel and act with greater compassion, empathy, and love towards other people, and all creation. “You have to understand all the nuances, all the regionalisms, slang and shorthand to play the game, to get the clues.” – Harry Friedman, Executive Producer,  

The MAE Foundation

Gathering up those things which shape our thoughts We pack as though a journey to forever is stretching out ahead Saints go naked Prophets look back wistfully Choking vapours drive life out of corners And rivers graciously receive our poisons Like trusting children Patient figures stand and wait Gazing down at rusting rails To unknown places with no names – Ralph Steadman 1997 (from Plague and the Moonflowers) My talented friend Richard recently told me of a new philanthropic work to help Burmese genocide refugees (150,000+). The work employs music and musical instruments to enhance opportunity for creativity and hope into lives that survive on $20 per month. Richard has seen how music can positively change individuals and communities oppressed with struggle and little hope. Fittingly, the name of this new work is The MAE Foundation (Music Alters Everything). Richard’s vision includes the mobilization of the music industry (composers, producers, musicians, etc.) to become involved in this important work. I browsed some YouTube videos on Burmese genocide to put in this post, but literally broke down after a couple minutes. The inhumanity is unspeakable. I encourage you to browse over to Richard’s site (in beta), and do what you can to  

Ivory Coast

Jan 2011: My cousin left Ivory Coast in late December and was home with her folks for Christmas. The standoff continues in country, hundreds of people have been killed, and it’s not looking good. 8 Dec: e-mail from cousin.. “Today the Ambassador told us to prepare for the worst, and talk to our local staff about the possibility that expats will be evacuated… it’s quite dramatic.” 6 Dec: updated news HERE. Does not look promising. 4 Dec: My cousin e-mailed today from Abidjan City in the Ivory Coast, Africa. She is country director for a large U.S. government relief program in Cote d’Ivoire. The country held their first free /democratic elections in many years this week. She was part of the massive multi-national election observer team. She had earlier outlined for me some details of their roles as observers. All Cote d’Ivoire polling places (including the key northern and central provinces) were staffed with official multi-national observers who counted and cross-counted every vote on-site, and who then physically accompanied the paper votes as they were transferred from polling places to the capital of Abidjan. The observers remained present while central voting authorities re-counted all votes and tallied results. I won’t get into the story that followed, but in essence the highly popular challenger (Ouattara) won by a decisive margin (55% – 45%). However, the incumbent administration delayed announcing the results for three days, claiming “vote rigging” and fraud in the northern districts. Yesterday, Cote d’Ivoire’s  “Constitutional Council” (under control of the current government) declared 400,000 northern votes “invalid” and awarded the election to the incumbent (Gbagbo), who was sworn in just hours ago. My cousin is quite worried about what will follow in Abidjan. Some are predicting widespread civil unrest throughout the country, and perhaps all-out civil war. International reaction has been swift and decisively united: the incumbent must step down and allow the legally elected president to assume power, as reported moments ago by the BBC: “Mr. Obama said Independent Electoral Commission, credible and accredited observers and the United Nations have all confirmed this result and attested to its credibility.” He congratulated Mr. Ouattara and said the international community would “hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions”. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France – the former colonial power in Ivory Coast – told Mr. Gbagbo to “respect the will of the people, abstain from any action that might provoke violence” and to help establish peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier called on Mr Gbagbo “to do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition”. The chairman of regional bloc Ecowas, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, said all parties should “respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission”. The head of the UN mission in Ivory Coast also said it regarded Mr Ouattara as the winner, while the African Union said it was “deeply concerned” by the developments. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said the IMF would only work with an Ivory Coast government recognised by the UN. “The Constitutional Council has abused its authority, the whole world knows it, and I am sorry for my country’s image,” he said. Is it just me, or do these people have that look that says “I know what I’m doing is totally wrong, but I don’t want to lose my  

The 18th Camel (15,000 Tribes)

William Ury’s brilliant TEDxTalk on the mediation of conflict. The solution to global mistrust? Invest twenty minutes and find out (as we meet on the balcony). I also want to share one of the comments from TED.com addressing William’s talk… “From this moment on I will no longer identify myself as a member of any group which is in opposition to anything, anyone, or any other group. I will focus my energy on the creation and maintenance of a ‘balcony’ perspective. My position will be one which surrounds issues, my view will be one which includes the right of all views to be represented, my action will be to embrace US ” all of US ” on behalf of the enlightened future we can grow together.” -Puran Lucas  

The Prayer of the Children

I was at an audio show yesterday in Denver. In one of the endless demonstration rooms, a gear manufacturer was playing a song I had heard years ago, and forgotten how moving it was. I’m supposed to be there critiquing audio products and instead I’m sitting on their couch, weeping. Just a moment ago, I found the song with a video. This is hard for me to watch all the way through. The theme is religious, but the call is universal. Anyone touched by this poem cannot help but make the world a better place, regardless of their belief or tribe. Alas, human separation and alienation resulting from tribal and religious belief is part of the  

Khan Academy

Salman Khan sees his on-line learning center as the world’s first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything–for free. He just won a $2M Google 10^100 prize – one of five selected from over 150,000 entries.  There are over 1,600 training videos on every K-12 topic. Sal made all the videos himself, and continues to make videos almost every week. My son has been “attending” the Khan Academy, when he needs to brush up on his algebra mostly. Sal is an engaging, motivated teacher, and his educational videos are first class. Information wants to be  

Information Ecology

William Gibson (who gave us the term “cyberspace”),  interviewed in TIME Magazine “My guess has always been that the thing our great-grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we made the distinction between here and the Internet… Here [is being] colonized by what used to be the other place.” New and emerging technologies are allowing historically repressed creatives to rise and collaborate. While these voices have always been present, pre-virtual “information ecology” kept them marginalized and suppressed. But yesterday’s social platforms are now appearing as structural relics, allowing (for the first time in human history) the latent creative population to flourish. Many said Rousseau’s dream of a true city-state “peoples’ republic” became less plausible as populations grew. They could not have conceived of a global connective network that, when allowed to remain free of state or corporate control, opened new doors of unprecedented global empathy and equality. “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”  – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1754 Our “social contract” is being rewritten by the new voices of a virtual world. As Gibson notes, what used to be the “other place” is being transformed into “here and now.” What was once “them” is now us. This seismic shift in social identity will take longer to impact strongly embedded patterns, such as religion. But fundamental global change is moving forward and inevitable. The TED phenomenon is a prime example of this global flattening. TED’s curator Chris Anderson gave a talk this year at TED Global adding yet another voice to this growing awareness that we are not meant to be separated into ideological ghettos, but forged together in a grand creative enterprise. It’s a good talk and I encourage you to watch it. Imagine a global communications pool in which all persons can share their thoughts, dreams, faith, best ideas, etc.. in the spirit of Rousseau, the protocol intelligently prioritizes experiences and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. But it’s more than a “view” from a distance. Fundamental inequalities, suffering, and marginalization is brought forward as if experienced in our own household, in our own family. The plight of others becomes our plight. Global horror and injustice becomes our nightmare, as well. But with this, the boundless creativity, resources, and potential of the new collective also becomes our own, so that one day we may say with complete authenticity (quoting Michael Roe) “what’s been done to you feels like it’s been done to me.” And most importantly, we will live and prioritize our lives in accordance with these newly experienced global realities. ich all persons share their thoughts, dreams, faith, desires, etc.. the communication protocol amasses the collective ideals and dreams and experiences together and brings the collective mind into view of all participants. What we get is a bell curve distribution. The same average ideology we have today in today’s dead tree iconography, but on the grandest human scale. But here’s the good news. Most people won’t participate at this collective level. Many people will be mostly watching TV, or engaged in some other passive activity. The passives vs. the actives. The creatives vs. the ____________. Refined leadership will always be a part of community. But that leadership will move from a small, professional, clergy, CEO-style, stage-centric hierarchy model to a vastly larger, distributed, creative mind – a true collective mind of the amassed creative population working in common resonance, with a common Spiritual center, yet not bound by inherited institutional  

Post Facebook

“…we are individuals, we invent ourselves, we’re not going to have some third-party advertising business define us. We invent our own taste, and furthermore, we decide what friendship means.’” – Jaron Lanier on the “post-Facebook”  

Communication Wants to be Free

From TED’ster David Pogue at today’s New York Times, on Google’s new Gmail Voice Calling service. There will come a day, probably within two generations, when most global-interpersonal communication may be included as part of a common virtual access fee, like a water bill.  Effectively, free. What Voice Calls from Gmail does is open up another variation, one that strikes even closer to the “free calls from a phone, to a phone” ideal. Now it’s free calls “from a computer, to a phone.” At the moment, you can’t use this new feature until you download and install a special plug-in for Mac or Windows. But you can’t help wondering: What if Google released an app like that for Android phones, or the iPhone? Well, I’ll tell you what. At that point, you could, for the first time in history, make unlimited free phone-to-phone calls. We’re tantalizingly