“How to design breakthrough inventions” (David Kelley and IDEO profiled by Charlie Rose) | 60 Minutes | January 6, 2013 January 7, 2013Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
Tags: design thinking, ideo
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Design thinking profile by 60 Minutes (via @jp2consult) of David Kelley at Ideo and Stanford U. Includes history with Steve Jobs and Apple, and ties with Stanford D-School.
“How to design breakthrough inventions” (David Kelley and IDEO profiled by Charlie Rose) | 60 Minutes | January 6, 2013 at http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50138327n (where “web extras” are available).
Ward Cunningham | “Federation” | Oct. 24, 2012 | Realtime Conference December 13, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
Tags: collaboration, federation, wiki
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@WardCunningham suggests the feedback loop is faster with a publish-and-review strategy, rather than a review-and-publish strategy. The Wikipedia Neutral-Point-of-View works for history, but for future-oriented or individually-oriented content, there needs to be room for a chorus of voices.
[0:45] What does open data really need, especially in corporate environment, to be able to be share, and not be afraid of sharing?
[0:55] I’ve developed a new wiki, and it’s called the Federated Wiki.
[1:00] The project, which started before this application, was called the Smallest Federated Wiki, and did that at the Indie Web Camp.
[1:15]It reminded me that I was always guiltly that the everybody was bringing content to my site. When they finally said “why I am making Ward famous, I ought to start a blog”, I said yeah, you should. A lot of the real talent that was authoring on wiki — which was about patterns, and then design, and then extreme programming, and then agile — it was all hammered out on that site.
[1:50] Wikis have settled in, and made me famous.
7:15 Instead of having a review and publish strategy, I had a publish and then review strategy. [....] The feedback loop is 10 times faster, in some cases 100 times faster than on a traditional publication. [...] It had good signal-to-noise ratio, because I had a good feedback loop.
[9:00] Another thing that happened was the notion of recent changes. you could always find out about what people were talking about now. [....] That meant that you go away for a week, and come back, and catch up in an hour.
[10:30] This brings me to federation. [....]
[10:50] Let’s not all have our own wikis and just write to our own and read everybody else’s. It’s kind of like the blogosphere, except that we put enough affordance in there that it really does feel like a wiki. [...]
[11:10] There’s so much that we do with distributed computers, so that that distributed computer feels like one computer. Making that distributed computer feel like a bunch of computers is going to be good way to be for a number of things.
[11:30] In decision making, there’s something called groupthink. You have a pretty good idea, but somebody else mentions his pretty good idea, and it just shuts you down. You say, his pretty good idea is actually better than my pretty good idea, I’m going to forget my pretty good idea. But if you’re in a small community, isolated from that other pretty good idea, you can bat your idea around with a few people near you, and get it to be a really excellent idea, and it might have more potential than the other one. So, keeping thought leaders separate for a little while actually improves the quality of thinking.
[12:10] This is something that doesn’t happen on Wikipedia. They have a different rule. They say, everyone is editing the same pages, but you’re required to have a Neutral Point of View. If you’re talking about history, where it is possible, with enough consulting and references to assert that you really do have a Neutral Point of View, you can get away with it. It works on Wikipedia.
[12:35] But if you’re talking about forward-looking things, where it’s not clear what the right way to go is — and my work recently has been in sustainability, and I know there’s going to be change in the future, and I just want to inform that with good data — anything that is future oriented or individually oriented, there needs to be room for a chorus of voices. There needs to be a lot of ideas where we can make them all possible to express.
[13:15] With the idea of federation, I’m thinking that everyone brings something to the conversation. If all you’re bringing is spam to the conversation, you’re not going to get much attention.
[13:35] You bring some of your own storage, you bring your own bandwidth, you bring some of your own value that you might find unique. You have the opportunity to make your voice heard.
[14:00] On the blog, every time you start, you start on a blank page. On a wiki, you found a conversation, and improved it just a little. You take that idea that no one starts from a blank slate.
[15:30] One person asked me once, he said wikis are pretty neat, but do they have to be so ugly? The answer is yes, basically they do. If you make it beautiful, then anyone who can’t match your beauty is closed out of the conversation.
[19.30] This [page] comes up, and looks for something useful to its left. I don’t look anywhere, I just look to my left. These came off different websites. One came off my home web site, but the graph came off of my laptop. This data doesn’t meet until it shows up in my browser.
[21:40] As I write on this, I’m making stuff for myself, and then just sharing it widely. If somebody finds value in it, that’s great. I don’t have to write carefully. I said does wiki have to be ugly? It helps to be able to write casually.
[22:00] I call it incremental paragraphs. I write fragments, just thoughts, and I want to type as fast as I can. [....] But then I evolve into more powerful words. Here, I’m taking this fragmented ideas, and saying “if I had to name that today, what would I name that”? What are the powerful words that I should use in a sentence. This is inching towards making a new page.
[23:20] I write paragraphs that are standalone. Sometimes they get a little bigger. But it they get much bigger than that, hyperlink. I already thought about those names, push it off onto names.
[23:35] Sociologically, I think this is profound. I don’t like writing, but I do like being in a community. This is wiki for the Twitter generation.
[32:30] I’ve been focused on three things. Federation, refactoring, and applying those two to open data.
More videos by Ward Cunningham on Federated Wiki can be found at http://wardcunningham.github.com/
Ward Cunningham | “Federated Wiki Mashes Data in Your Browser” | May 31, 2012 | Fluent 2012 December 13, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
Tags: cunningham, federated, git, wiki
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Ward Cunningham, inventor of wiki, rethinks wiki as a way of sharing data.
Our new wiki innovates three ways. It shares through federation, composes by refactoring and wraps data with visualization.
The result is computing where content can be copied and forked with personal points of view, learning from the distributed parallelism featured in Git technology. Cunningham says (about about 11:15):
This is going to make a kind of wiki where it isn’t a promise of a Neutral Point of View, but it’s a promise of attention to outcomes, attention to measurement. You can have an opinion about how we should live our lives in the future, but you’ve got to tie that to realistic data. In the blogosphere, you’ll have people off on one side yelling at people on the other side. On Wikipedia, you have one place, and they all have to get along with this kind of Neutral Point of View. I have something in between, where it’s kind of like the blogosphere where you get to be yourself, but it’s kind of like the wiki, where there’s a lot of incentive for understanding each other through all of this the copying, and there’s data to be explained.
This is one of a series of videos on the Smallest Federated Wiki at http://wardcunningham.github.com/
Unlock the 007 in you | Oct., Nov. 2012 | cokezero December 6, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
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Challenging unprepared players for a 70-second adventure was described as “Gamification in Marketing” by Mind At Focus. The resulting web video is practically as engaging as the 007 movie it promotes.
Equally entertaining is how some players are blocked or otherwise distracted from achieving a win.
“Disrupting a hundred-year-old institution” | Tuula Teeri, president, Aalto University | Nov. 22, 2012 | slush.fi December 6, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
Tags: aalto university, disruption, finland
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Aalto U. as a kind of startup, says Tuula Teeri, president, responding to disruptions in a changing world.
Some points from her talk.
- Disruption from forests to ecosystems, from mobile phones to smartphones, from printed news to tablet publications, from lecture hall to online learning.
- University reform in Finland from 2010: Aalto University as a merged university from Helsinki University of Technology, School of Art and Design Helsinki, and Helsinki School of Economics.
- Gave universities more autonomy, and now have to prove it’s been the right decision
- Extra funding from government for 5 years, plus endowment capital.
- The top ten jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004, says Sony.
- the amount of new technical information doubles every two years, which means that half of what is taught to students in first year is outdated by their third year in university.
- The answer: bottom up initiatives, in multidisciolinary learning by doing in Design Factory, Media Factory and Service Factory — using theoretical knowledge in real-world problems.
- New learning environments, Aalto on Waves on boats, and Aalto on Tracks on trains, not just learning events, designed with students.
- Open Innovation House new in 2012.
- Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship, will have education and research into building an effective innovation accelerator.
Chrystia Freeland | “Wealth Disparity, Income Inequality” | Nov. 30, 2012 | rotman.utoronto.ca December 4, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
Tags: freeland, plutocracy, rich
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After the book on Plutocracy by @cafreeland started in 2008, she thought the Global Financial Crisis would end that title, but it’s turned out that the gap between the Super-Rich and the poor has widened even more.
SPEAKER: Chrystia Freeland, Global Editor-at-Large and Columnist, Reuters News; Author, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (Penguin, 2012)
TOPIC: Wealth Disparity, Income Inequality, and the New Global Elite; Social and Economic History Experts Speaker Series @ Rotman
Taped November 30, 2012
Clay Shirky | How the Internet will (one day) transform government | June 2012 | ted.com October 30, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
Tags: github, open government
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The idea of open source in government isn’t so new, but the extrapolation by @cshirky of Github out of the developers domain into a wider application is new.
On my to-do list is to look at some of the Top 10 Git Tutorials for Beginners.
Clay Shirky | How the Internet will (one day) transform government | June 2012 (published September 2012) | ted.com at http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_the_internet_will_one_day_transform_government.html
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Around one sixth of the world’s population live in India but how do you encourage more of the population to use tablets outside of the already connected cities?
LJ Rich takes a look at the cheap tablets wanting to take a bite out of Apple’s dominance.
The low-cost tablets battling Apple in India | LJ Rich | May 19, 2012 | BBC Click at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9722033.stm.
Andy Stanford-Clark | “Innovation Begins at Home” (web video) | March 22, 2012 | YouTube March 24, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
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The Internet of Things, by Andy Stanford-Clark, from innovation at home, into the community and beyond into larger systems of systems.
Dr Andy Stanford-Clark is a Distinguished Engineer and Master Inventor at IBM UK. He specialises in technologies which are helping to make the planet smarter, by analysing and reacting to data from remote sensors. He is Fellow of the British Computer Society and a Visiting Professor at the University of Newcastle.
Andy Stanford-Clark | “Innovation Begins at Home” (web video) | March 22, 2012 | YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9nrm8q5eGg.
Geoffrey Bowker, “Memory Practices in the Sciences” (MP3 audio) | Feb. 5, 2008 | Library Cafe, WVKR-FM March 22, 2012Posted by daviding in Uncategorized.
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Geoffrey C. Bowker, Regis and Dianne McKenna Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University, discusses his book, Memory Practices in the Sciences, winner of the 2007 Ludwig Fleck Prize of the Society for Social Studies and Science, and named the “Best Information Book of 2006″ by the American Society for Information Science & Technology, published by MIT.
Geoffrey Bowker, “Memory Practices in the Sciences” (MP3 audio) | Feb. 5, 2008 | Library Cafe, WVKR-FM http://library-cafe.blogspot.ca/2008/01/geoffrey-c-bowker.html
Jason Hwang | “The Innovators Prescription” (MP3 audio) | Jan. 18, 2012 | The Brad Brooks Show March 22, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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Jason Hwang, M.D., M.B.A. is an internal medicine physician and Executive Director of Healthcare at Innosight Institute, a non-profit social innovation think tank based in San Francisco, CA. Together with Professor Clayton M. Christensen of Harvard Business School and the late Jerome H. Grossman of Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Previously, Dr. Hwang taught as chief resident and clinical instructor at the University of California, Irvine, where he received multiple recognitions for his clinical work. He has also served as a clinician with the Southern California Kaiser Permanente Medical Group and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach, California. Dr. Hwang received his B.S. and M.D. from the University of Michigan and his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
Jason Hwang | The Innovators Prescription | Jan. 18, 2012 | The Brad Brooks Show at http://www.thebradbrooksshow.com/Guests/jason-hwang-the-innovators-prescription.html.
Eric D. Beinhocker | “Beyond left and right: An evolutionary way of thinking about economics and public policy” (MP3 audio) | This View of Life on SoundCloud March 16, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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Eric D. Beinhocker is the author of The Origin of Wealth and a senior advisor to McKinsey & Company, Inc., where he conducts research on economics, management, and public policy issues. He was previously a partner at McKinsey and a co-leader of its global strategy practice. His career has bridged both the business and academic worlds. He has been a software CEO, a venture capitalist, and an Executive Director of the Corporate Executive Board. He has also held research appointments at the Harvard Business School and the MIT Sloan School of Management, and has been a visiting scholar at the Santa Fe Institute. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the MIT Sloan School of Management where he was a Henry Ford II Scholar.
Fortune magazine has named Beinhocker a “Business Leader of the Next Century,” and his writings on business and economics have appeared in a variety of publications, including the Financial Times.
Eric Beinhocker: Beyond left versus right: evolutionary economics and the future of policy and politics
For almost 150 years, our politics has been described in terms of ‘left versus right’. While these terms encompass a broad range of ideas, historically, differing views on how to organize the economy have lay at the heart of this distinction. For the past 30 years, neoclassical economic theory has dominated many areas of public policy-making (e.g. central bank macro models, cost-benefit analysis in climate change, and the “Washington Consensus” in economic development). This talk will argue that modern views of the economy as an evolving, complex system present a radical challenge to these long established political and policy frameworks. Hypotheses will be presented on how an evolutionary view of the economy may yield new political and policy frameworks. An evolutionary view will not end political or policy disagreements, but may better align the space of argument with the nature of the system being argued about.
Group for Research in Organisational Evolution at http://www.uhbs-groe.org/abstracts.htm.
Beyond left and right: An evolutionary way of thinking about economics and public policy by This View of Life on SoundCloud at http://soundcloud.com/this-view-of-life/david-sloan-wilson-talks-with.
Geoffrey Hodgson, “Evolutionary Thinking and Its Policy Implications for Modern Capitalism” (MP3 audio) | Sept. 22, 2011 |This View of Life, SoundCloud March 16, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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David Sloan Wilson interviews economist Geoffrey Hodgson at a workshop organized by the Group for Research in Organizational Evolution. Check out the workshop here http://www.uhbs-groe.org/p7.htm
Geoff Hodgson: The Evolution of Morality and the End of Economic Man
1871 saw the publication of major treatises in the development of neoclassical economics, with self-seeking economic man as its centrepiece. In the same year Darwin published The Descent of Man, which emphasised sympathy and cooperation as well as self-interest, and contained a powerful argument that morality has evolved in humans by natural selection. Essentially this stance is supported by modern research. This paper considers the nature of morality and how it has evolved. It reconciles Darwin’s notion that a developed morality requires language and deliberation (and is thus unique to humans), with Darwin’s other view that moral feelings have a long-evolved and biologically-inherited basis. The social role of morality and its difference with altruism is illustrated by an agent-based simulation. The fact that humans combine both moral and selfish dispositions has major implications for the social sciences and must oblige us to abandon the pre-eminent notion of selfish economic man.
via Group for Research in Organisational Evolution at http://www.uhbs-groe.org/abstracts.htm.
“Evolutionary Thinking and Its Policy Implications for Modern Capitalism” by This View of Life on SoundCloud at http://soundcloud.com/this-view-of-life/evolutionary-thinking-and-its.
Lawrence Busch | “Standards: Recipes for Reality” (MP3 audio) | July 15, 2011 | Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (FARE), University of Guelph March 16, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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Dr. Lawrence Busch [in] his book “Standards: Recipes for Reality.” … argues that standards play a central role in constructing reality. We discuss this argument in general and examine the important role that standards play in contemporary agriculture. In this context we discuss the system of standards, certifications, and accreditation that, in part, shape our economy. Dr. Busch also provides guidelines for developing fair, equitable, and effective standards.
Dr. Lawrence Busch is University Distinguished Professor in the Center for the Study of Standards in Society in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University. More details about him and his forthcoming book can be found at http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=12691
Lawrence Busch | “Standards: Recipes for Reality” (MP3 audio) | July 15, 2011 | Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (FARE), University of Guelph at http://fare.uoguelph.ca/FARE-talk/index.html#recipes.
David Sloan Wilson, “The Psychopathic Chicken (and Other Lessons of Evolution)” (MP3 audio) | August 27, 2008 | Culture Snob March 16, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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[David Sloan] Wilson, a distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, is one of the primary advocates for an interdisciplinary application of the principles of evolution — the idea that Charles Darwin’s theory has much to tell us about humans and their cultures. He created his university’s Evolution Studies program and would like to see other colleges and universities embrace evolution similarly. “It’s sort of become my mission to incorporate this into higher education,” Wilson said last week in a phone interview.
His goal is first to make evolution accessible (and acceptable) by showing how the theory can be used to explain human behavior — a sensitive subject that had been largely off-limits until the past two decades.
He lays out his premise at the outset of Evolution for Everyone:
“This is a book of tall claims about evolution: that it can become uncontroversial; that the basic principles are easy to learn; that everyone should want to learn them, once their implications are understood; that evolution and religion, those old enemies who currently occupy opposite corners of human thought, can be brought harmoniously together.”
The aim of the desert-island morality example, then, is to see Darwin’s theory in human practice. As Wilson explains, it’s critical for people to understand that evolution isn’t just biology. It can explain why altruism exists in society against the apparent self-interest of its individual members.
“If you can’t address an issue like that,” he said, “then nobody’s going to accept the theory of evolution.”
David Sloan Wilson, “The Psychopathic Chicken (and Other Lessons of Evolution)” (MP3 audio) | August 27, 2008 | Culture Snob http://www.culturesnob.net/2008/08/psychopathic-chicken/
David Weinberger | “Too Big to Know: How the new dimensions of information are transforming business — and life” (MP3 audio) | November 30, 2011 | School of Information, U.C. Berkeley March 15, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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Systems designed around information scarcity and inaccessibility in the agricultural and industrial ages are giving way to a world of abundance in information so easily accessible.
… our old system of knowledge was based around the limitations of paper, a disconnected, expensive medium that managed a world that was too big to know by cutting down on what we had to deal with. There were of course advantages to that, but they came at the cost of throwing out most of what the world was trying to tell us.
In the new knowledge ecology, knowledge takes on the properties of its new medium, the Net. That means knowledge has become huge, it’s connected, and it embraces disagreement and differences. The key is to think about knowledge not as a set of content but as a network: the smartest person in the room is now the room itself. Then the question is, how can you build, maintain, and nurture a smart network?
David Weinberger is one of the most respected thought-leaders at the intersection of technology, business, and society. He is a co-author of the bestselling book, The Cluetrain Manifesto — which InformationWeek called “the most important business book since In Search of Excellence” — and is the author of Everything is Miscellaneous and Small Pieces Loosely Joined.
Weinberger’s new book, Too Big to Know, explores how the networking of knowledge is transforming expertise and decision-making in business, government, education, and science.
David Weinberger | “Too Big to Know: How the new dimensions of information are transforming business — and life” (MP3 audio) | November 30, 2011 | School of Information, U.C. Berkeley http://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/newsandevents/events/distinguishedlectures/davidweinberger.
Andy Piper | MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) (MP3 audio) | January 9, 2012 | Technometria with Phil Windley, itconversations.org March 15, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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MQTT, now an open standard under Eclipse, opens up the Machine to Machine Internet, similar to how HTTP as opened up documents.
As stated on the MQTT website, MQ Telemetry Transport “is a machine-to-machine (M2M)/”Internet of Things” connectivity protocol.” Meant to be used remotely particularly when bandwidth is at a premium, it can be used in both mobile and dial-up situations. Developed as part of his work at IBM, Andy Piper discusses the project, including its concepts and background. He also reviews examples of its use and reviews future development plans.
Andy Piper is widely known as a Social Bridgebuilder and speaker, and is a Consulting IT Specialist working for IBM Software Group, currently based in the UK but with a worldwide scope and remit. He is an enabler, a synthesiser, a connector, and a community-builder.
Andy is probably best known online as a “social bridgebuilder” spanning a number of different areas of technology and interest. His weblog The Lost Outpost reflects the diversity of his skills and interests: development, design, communications, everything social, community building, marketing, gaming and digital imaging. He co-hosts the weekly Dogear Nation podcast (search for it on iTunes), is a leading member of IBM Hursley’s eightbar community, one of the organisers of Home Camp, and a committee member, organiser and former speaker at Digital Surrey.
Andy Piper | MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT) | January 9, 2012 | Technometria with Phil Windley, itconversations.org http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail5153.html.
Geoffrey West, Mathieu Levefre, Carlo Ratti, “Thinking Cities” documentary (web video) | Networked Society series | Ericsson February 27, 2012Posted by daviding in Talk Video Streaming.
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Why do people want to live in cities? What are the impacts as ICT simultaneously rises? Geoffrey West, Mathieu Levefre, Carlo Ratti.
Thinking Cities documentary | Feb. 16, 2012 | ericsson.com at http://www.ericsson.com/networkedsociety/video/56/ (duration 18 minutes)
Thinking Cities deals with one of the most dramatic societal trends happening today: urbanization. The world population is expected to soar to more than 9 billion people by 2050, with roughly 70 percent living in cities. At the same time, Information Communications Technology (ICT) is extending its reach. These parallel trends are intersecting at a time in which the world faces serious economic, environmental, and social challenges in achieving a more sustainable development.
Thinking Cities explores the challenges and opportunities of urbanization in the Networked Society together with leading city thinkers including Geoffrey West, physicist and professor at Santa Fe Institute; Mathieu Lefevre of New Cities Foundation and Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT Senseable City Lab.
Originally surfaced as “Watch A Fascinating Short Film On How Cities Will Drive Global Change” | Morgan Clendaniel | Feb. 20, 2012 | Fast Co.Exist at Watch A Fascinating Short Film On How Cities Will Drive Global Change | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.
“There’s an enormous realization of the importance of cities. That is true for business, it’s true for government, it’s true for civil society.” So says one of the speakers in Thinking Cities (made by Ericsson as part of their Networked Society series), which you can watch above. As Geoffrey West, a scientist who studies cities, notes in the film, cities are the cause of many of the world’s problems, but are also hubs of innovation that are going to drive the solutions.
Thinking Cities features thought leaders like West, a physicist and professor at Santa Fe Institute; Mathieu Lefevre of New Cities Foundation; and Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab speaking on what the city means for the future while we take a tour of some of the most innovative smart city projects–from tracking trash to tagging potholes–that are going on in the world today.
Take a look. As one city evangelist says: “The city’s role is to make as easy as possible for people … to live in a smart and sustainable way.” They also tend to make their residents happier. For these and countless other reasons enumerated in the video, cities are the living area of the future. Now it’s time to make them worth the hype.
Ian Morris, “Why the West Rules – For Now” (MP3 audio), Long Now Foundation, 2011/04/13 November 7, 2011Posted by daviding in Talk Audio Download.
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Social development as biology, sociology and geography … and historically, regional differences especially from the geography.
Morris has devised a quantitative “social development index” based on evaluating a civilization’s energy capture, organization (size of largest cities), information management, and war-making capability. (The details of his method are online here.) When you graph human progress since the last ice age 15,000 years ago, the results show that the West led for all the millennia up till the 6th century CE, fell behind for 1,200 years, then leapt ahead again up to the present day. (The “West” for Morris is the civilizational core that developed agriculture and then cities and empires in the eastern Mediterranean, later spreading across Europe and North America. The “East” is China.)
Geography determines how and when regions develop, but new societal capabilities keep redefining what geography means. At first agriculture was limited to regions with reliable rainfall, but once societies grew able to manage large-scale irrigation, the empires of parched regions like Mesopotamia and Egypt could take off, and their rivers became trade routes. The vast steppes of north-central Asia long separated Western and Eastern empires, but once their riches became worth plundering, mounted nomads from the steppes invaded repeatedly, defeating the agrarian armies and carrying germs that unleashed waves of epidemics.
The West had the advantage of a trade highway in the Mediterranean that wasn’t matched in the East until the 6th century, when the Sui emperors built the Grand Canal 1,500 miles long linking north and south China. Everything then changed with the invention of ocean-going ships and guns in the 13th and 14th centuries.