The Dangerous Metaphysics of Apple

The secret behind the power of the things we make is that they aren’t single things. The cheapest no-brand MP3 player is millions of times more complex than the most sophisticated mechanical clock ever built. At this level of complexity our perceptions and intuitions break down, and it’s only through the utmost efforts at abstraction and modularity that engineers are able to conceive and build our everyday consumer items. Continuer la lecture de « The Dangerous Metaphysics of Apple »

From social networks to social manifolds

More than a concept for websites, social networks are a metaphor about our lives, one in which we are related to other people by relatively strong and stable links. By and large, this is an accurate image; after all, it was originally developed by anthropologists attempting to understand the basis of human societies. Continuer la lecture de « From social networks to social manifolds »

Humans are from Earth, financial markets might as well be from Mars

Our belief that people do things out of clearly understandable reasons is, at best, dubious. To apply that logic to countries is pointless. To try to explain in psychological terms the behavior of financial markets — which are not just large groups of people, but very large groups of very nervous people working with or for very fast networks of computers running very experimental algorithms — is to take anthropomorphism into dangerous territory. Continuer la lecture de « Humans are from Earth, financial markets might as well be from Mars »

Wiring Up the Internet of Things

An interview with Usman Haque, founder of Pachube.com, an online platform for realtime data.

What is Pachube? What were the events and thought processes that led to its creation?

Pachube is a generalized data brokerage for a wide range of entities: from sensors to actuators, mobile devices to buildings, physical environments like forests to virtual environments like Second Life. Its technical focus, however, is very narrow: it enables these disparate entities to store, share and relay their realtime environmental datastreams and corresponding metadata and promotes interoperability between the societies of devices, buildings, etc. The Pachube system provides high-resolution storage and high-volume resilience of this data and the backend is built for robust scalability.

Do you see the space for similar platforms tending towards one dominating player (a la Google), or with various (or perhaps a lot) of different players?

There will necessarily have to be multiple players because it will be difficult (and, frankly, wrong) for a single player to have control of the disparate entities that form the Internet of Things. Alliances such as IPSO should help ensure that multiple players are part of the conversation.

What would a business or organization changed by Pachube look like? What would a world changed by Pachube look like?

In the coming age of extreme connectivity what will be important is not who you are, but what you are connected to. For the devices we use and the buildings we occupy in a wirelessly and ubiquitously networked world this will be even more vital: they will all need to communicate with each other and share information. Realtime interoperability between various types of entity will be essential. The world will become a vast ‘eco-system’ of conversant devices, buildings and virtual environments. Connected Environments Ltd (Pachube.com’s parent company) will focus on exploiting these emerging trends and on delivering products and services that are intended to serve as the industry standard in this new and exciting area where technology, telecommunications and architecture are beginning to collide.

What’s next for Pachube?

There are a number of major advances coming for Pachube in the next few months. We’ve demonstrated (a) that we can provide a scalable, robust platform; (b) that there’s a huge market for it – we get dozens of invitation requests every day; and (c) that online storage and sharing of sensor and environmental data can be a valuable resource. Now we’re going to be actively refining our business model so that we can serve the small and medium scale enterprises, designers, makers and product manufacturers whose products and devices are going to make up the Internet of Things. We’ll be rolling out much more sophisticated data analysis queries, introducing ‘groups’ and improving the Pachube.apps repository. We’ll also be introducing a new general data-logging Pachube iPhone app!

The Jobless Century

Statistics indicate that the slow, uneven recovery of the global economy is not being accompanied by significant growth in wages. That was to be expected, and is in line with recent economic history. The long post-WWII trend of economic growth overwhelmingly improved incomes for the most wealthy and for a fast-growing global group of working poor/lower middle class. The gradual integration of the Third World into a world economy to which they contributed not only raw materials but also manufacturing capabilities and even some services, together with much improved logistical and transport systems, has had a negative effect on middle class income in many economies across the world. Continuer la lecture de « The Jobless Century »

Counting Calories

Agricultural productivity progressed astoundingly during the Green Revolution. In many ways this was one of the defining technological achievements of the 20th century, as it made possible robust population, health, and lifespan growth in most parts of the globe. But agricultural productivity has all but leveled off, and new technologies like genetically modified organisms, due to a convergence of genuine scientific difficulties, excessive regulatory controls, aggressive monopolies, and public resistance to the concept, have failed to pick up the slack. Continuer la lecture de « Counting Calories »