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Kevin Kelly, “The Future of the Web and Everything Else”, Econtalk, 2007/03/26 July 30, 2008

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In this conversation, Kevin Kelly commented on having a book (i.e. Out of Control, 1995) about technology, in the face of continuing progress (e.g. the way we use Google today would have been a dream a decade ago).

Author Kevin Kelly talks about the role of technology in our lives, the future of the web, how to time travel, the wisdom of the hive, the economics of reputation, the convergence of the biological and the mechanical, and his impact on the movies The Matrix and Minority Report.

Kevin Kelly on the Future of the Web and Everything Else, EconTalk Permanent Podcast Link: Library of Economics and Liberty

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Craig Venter, “Joining 3.5 Billion Years of Microbial Invention”, Longnow Foundation, 2008/02/25 July 30, 2008

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While we tend to focus on life on a human scale, I learned that there’s a huge amount of DNA in a bucket of sea water.

Decoding and recoding life

To really read DNA accurately and understand it thoroughly, you need to be able to write it from scratch and make it live, Venter explained.

His sequencing the first diploid human genome (with the genes from both parents) last year showed there is much more genetic variation between humans than first thought. His current goal is to fully sequence 10,000 humans and bring the price for each sequence down to $1,000. With that data, his says, “We’ll begin to really learn what’s nature and what’s nurture.”“

Microbes make up one half of the Earth’s biomass.” Venter’s shotgun sequencing of open-ocean microbial samples revealed that every milliliter of ocean has one million bacteria and archaea and ten million viruses even in supposedly barren waters. Taking samples on a round-the-world sailing trip showed that every 200 miles the genes in the microbes are 85% different.

“Microbes dominate evolutionary diversity,” Venter said. Some 50,000 major gene familes have been discovered. Humans and other complex animals have a small fraction of that in our own genes, but the “microbiome” of our onboard microbes carry the full richness. Only 1/10th of the cells in a human are human; the rest are microbes. There are 1,000 species in our mouths, another 1,000 in our guts, another 500 on our skins, and those with vaginas have yet another 500 species.

The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » Craig Venter “Joining 3.5 Billion Years of Microbial Invention”

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “The Future Has Always Been Crazier Than We Thought”, Longnow Foundation, 2008/02/04 July 10, 2008

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I had recently heard another talk by Taleb on Econtalk, which had more of an economic spin. This talk was equally entertaining, with a slightly different orientation.

Dispatches from Extremistan

A “black swan,” Taleb explained, is an event which is 1) Hard to predict; 2) Highly consequential; 3) Wrongly retro-predicted. We pretend we know why the big event happened, and so entrench our inability to deal with the next world-changing improbable event.

Examples: Viagra, 9/11, Harry Potter, First World War, Beatles, the PC, Google, and the rise of any successful religion. History is dominated by sudden, lasting changes wrought by deeply unexpected events.

Part of the problem is that we ignore the “silent evidence” of the nonobserved and nonobservable. We compute probability from the success of survivors. No one writes or reads a book titled “How I Lost a Million Dollars.” Another problem is that we revise our own predictions and intentions unconsciously to match what actually happens. We disguise having been wrong by pretending we were right. This is “confirmation bias.”There are TWO kinds of randomness, two realms in which events happen…

Mediocristan is dominated by the average [....]

Extremistan is dominated by extremes. [....]

The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “The Future Has Always Been Crazier Than We Thought”

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Michael Cote and Steve O’Grady, “Apple’s Open Source”, Redmonk Radio, 2006/08/21 July 10, 2008

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In parallel with OS/X, Apple has an open source version in Darwin, although the Open Darwin project shut down with the move to Intel x86 architecture

In this episode Steve O’Grady and Coté talk about Apple’s recent open source efforts, FileNet and IBM, IBM getting closer to the end user, and the frustration with Linux drivers.

People Over Process » RedMonk Radio Episode 25 – Apple’s Open Source, Integrating Innovation Elsewhere, FileNet, IBM and Verticals, Linux Drivers

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Ray Anderson, “Sustainable Enterprise: The Next Industrial Revolution”, PBS Atlanta, 2007/02/13 July 10, 2008

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I first saw Ray Anderson speak at the ISSS meeting in 1998. He’s continuing with the themes that he described then.

Technological and industrial advances during the last century have made a tremendous positive impact on our daily lives. Some argue that these advances have come at a significant cost to the environment and may result in global climate change. Some believe that a better model exists that consumes no non-renewable resources, reduces waste, and is profitable to business.

Anderson is recognized as one of the world’s most environmentally progressive chief executives. For the last decade, he has committed himself to making Interface a profitable yet sustainable enterprise with a Mission Zero promise to eliminate any negative impact the company may have on the environment by 2020. Since 1995 Interface has avoided material and financial waste costs in excess of $300 million globally through its internal waste elimination initiatives, and since 1996 it has reduced absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 56 percent, while increasing renewable energy usage to 13%. Mr. Anderson has become a world-renowned advocate for sustainable industry. In 1997 he was named co-chair of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. In 1999 he published a book, Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise, The Interface Model, about his conversion to sustainability. He now travels the world, spreading the ‘gospel’ of sustainability with an energy and dedication reminiscent of the Baptist preachers of his Georgia childhood.

Ray C. Anderson | Sustainable Enterprise: The Next Industrial Revolution | WGBH Forum Network | Free Online Lectures

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Michael Pollan, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Searching for the Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World”, Colorado College, 2007/02/08 July 10, 2008

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Michael Pollan’s book has become popular very quickly. Listening to his talk revealed that he’s been writing about sustainable agriculture for some time.

All creatures are defined ecologically by how they fit into a food chain. For humans, food industrialization has obscured this once-plain fact; most Americans are only dimly aware that their food represents their most profound engagement with the natural world. Michael Pollan, author of “The Botany of Desire” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” both New York Times best sellers, conducted a series of personal explorations of the food chain: growing a genetically modified potato, tracing an organic TV dinner from grocery freezer to farm and buying and following a steer from insemination to steak. Pollan will tell these stories to tease out conclusions about what’s gone wrong with the industrial food system and its implications for our health. He’ll also explore healthier alternatives to industrial food.

Colorado College | Lecture: Michael Pollan: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Searching for the Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World

Notable lecture MP3 audio; Q&A MP3 audio

Paul Saffo, “Embracing Uncertainty: the secret to effective forecasting”, Longnow Foundation, 2008/01/14 July 6, 2008

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Is it human nature to want to avoid uncertainty?

Rules of Forecasting
Reflecting on his 25 years as a forecaster, Paul Saffo pointed out that a forecaster’s job is not to predict outcomes, but to map the “cone of uncertainty” on a subject. Where are the edges of what might happen? (Uncertainty is cone-shaped because it expands as you project further into the future— next decade has more surprises in store than next week.)

The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » Paul Saffo, “Embracing Uncertainty – the secret to effective forecasting”

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Robert Scoble, Technometria, 2007/05/02 July 6, 2008

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Robert Scoble is one of the world’s most well-known bloggers. His joining Microsoft raised a lot of eyebrows.

Robert Scoble is one of the most popular technology writers and is followed religiously throughout the world. He joins Phil, Scott, and Ben to discuss current events in the tech world. In addition to reviewing his work with Podtech.net, the group talks about Robert’s experiences with Microsoft, his work with video, and how new forms of social networking continue to be developed.

The group first talks about a number of current topics, including HD-DVD processing keys, Silverlight, and the possibilities of the Xbox as a development platform. They then talk about Robert’s work with Microsoft and why he joined Podtech.net. They review possible ways to better develop and improve podcats, including how to get transcripts produced economically. Throughout the chat, Robert mentions examples of new types of social networking, particularly with photos and video. Robert draws on his experience to present interesting and thought-provoking opinions.

IT Conversations | Technometria with Phil Windley | Robert Scoble

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Clay Shirky, AfterTv, 2006/06/21 July 6, 2008

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Clay Shirky studies the social impacts of changes in information and communication technologies.

… we forgot about ontology and discussed, instead, the implications of personalized technology on politics, culture and society. Shirky, who teaches at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, believes that the democratization of the media is the first stage in a broader realignment of relations between elites and users. The best is yet to come, the digital visionary promised us.

AfterTV:

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Tarleton Gillespie, “Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture”, MIT Press Podcast, 2007/11 July 6, 2008

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Tarleton Gillespie describes an interesting contrast of the consumer response on copy protection added onto the audio content, in comparison to copy protection established with DVDs at the launch of the technology.

Tarleton Gillespie, author of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture.

Invisible Handwriting: A podcaster’s blog: M.I.T. Press

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