Monday, January 30, 2006

World 2.0 Entrepreneurs

The last few days I've been hanging around the borders of World 2.0 wondering if I am doing something completely wrong. Can you imagine - this office I am now sittin and waiting customers to call me costs me 800 euros per month. And what do I get? Well, yes, a fair 40mb fixed IP connection, but a boring empty room 500 miles north from Leningrad, with snow, ice and some hundred miles of bushes between me and the Arctic Ocean. Very few people living around which means there are very few potential customers. Very cold - freezing -25 celsius degree weather.

Compare that to this option:
--wait, where did I put that advertisement... here

It says: Imagine your own island getaway in Second Life! (hrrr... I'd prefer it in this life!)
... Perhaps you have an idea for a huge project which you want to realize, and you just need a lot of open space to build...
And here:
"Islands are priced at US$1,250 for 16 acres. Monthly land fees for maintenance are US$195." Can you imagine! 195 US dollars for 16 acres - that must be 65.000 sq meters! 65,536 m2 to be exact. Owning land in Second Life allows you to build, display, and store your virtual creations, as well as host events and businesses.
The Pricing and Fees are simple; you pay $9.95 a month plus a Land Use Fee proportional to the amount of land you own. Whether it’s a modest nook for a relaxing cottage, or an entire island to build your dream amusement park, land is for everyone."

Picture comes from Torley

Wonder where is this new world? Here!

This is what they have for entrepreneurs:
"There are now 129.643 citizens spending 90.000 US dollars per day.
There are as many opportunities for innovation and profit in Second Life as in the Real World. Open a nightclub, sell jewelry, become a land speculator; the choice is yours to make. Thousands of residents are making part or all of their real life income from their Second Life Businesses.

Look at that street-life!
Picture comes from Torley

Here are some examples of existing businesses:
party and wedding planner
pet manufacturer
casino operator
nightclub owner
automotive manufacturer
fashion designer
aerospace engineer
custom avatar designer
jewelry maker
XML coder
freelance scripter
game developer
fine artist
machinima set designer
tour guide
custom animation creator
lottery operator
theme park developer
real estate speculator
vacation resort owner
private detective
special effects designer
hug maker

She is Torley. She has been guiding me through my first expedition.
Torley's Second Life & techno music Blog is an awesome source of information about Your Second Life.
Picture comes from Torley

Thursday, January 26, 2006

God in us

This is an interesting story on Wired
Mattieu Ricard, a French-born monk from the Shechen Monastery in Katmandu is meditating at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior with electrodes on his head.

Ricard was asked to meditate on "unconditional loving-kindness and compassion." The research equipments noticed powerful gamma activity - brain waves oscillating at roughly 40 cycles per second - indicating intensely focused thought. Gamma waves are usually weak and difficult to see. Those emanating from Ricard were easily visible, even in the raw EEG output. Moreover, oscillations from various parts of the cortex were synchronized - a phenomenon that sometimes occurs in patients under anesthesia.

The researchers had never seen anything like it. They brought in more monks, as well as a control group of college students inexperienced in meditation. The monks produced gamma waves that were 30 times as strong as the students'. In addition, larger areas of the meditators' brains were active, particularly in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions.

Humans have the ability to develop brain functions through intensive training. With this experiment researchers at the Waisman Laboratory showed that this potential extends to emotional centers as well. Emotions are an important element in all interaction. Unconditional Loving-Kindness and Compassion may be one of the rare non-monetarised resources and aspects of human interaction. The modern western societies have three dominant value regimes - the family, the market and the state. If you are lucky you may sometimes recognize Unconditional Loving-Kindness and Compassion within your family. As an rare relick I have seen and heard it also in politics where it related to some intergenerational issues. Unconditional Loving-Kindness and Compassion can be a weak remaining sign of the origins of us humans and our mission on the earth. If we were created in God’s image, those Gamma waves may lead to something important!

Avatars among us

An other boring day in the meat world? Here is a free advice. Find a place with a lot of people around. Try to pick up the elves and wizards hiding among the muggles passing by. Like that professor Choi, sitting at the next table (left picture). According to the BBC News his real name is Uroo Ahs (at the right).

Photojournalist Robbie Cooper captured images of these muggle world meat avatars and their real-life selves. Here are their stories.

Wired magazine has a nice story about Avatars among us. Inspired by that story I decided to get a Second Life, buy some virtual property, hang around and do some private eye research there. Maybe I can earn a little money there too. Who knows. I will write my next story about those experiences - if I ever get out of this New World. Stay tuned and follow the New World Police Plotter

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Web 2.0 Music - Pandora Genome Project

Picture: My Sweet Lord by George Harrison at Flickr by: pasz / pasquale DI
(originally writen 2006) In my earlier posts I have written about algorithm that can be used for analyzing the genome of Web 2.0 content.
Now - let us talk something practical and more business-oriented. Web 2.0 music. Music is my consolation and comfort, the source of energy and contemplation. I love Mercora Radio who brings me my daily religious confirmation in the form of the song My Sweet Lord by George Harrison ... it takes so long my Lord! it takes so long! ..., or, in the evening, the mysterious Crazy by Patsy Cline. Now, the advocates of the next generation internet, Web 2.0 or World 2.0 as they call it, say that to enrich my limited musical world I may use the Web 2.0 approach and TAG this consolation experience I am so desperately seeking. Right? Then I may find radio stations or individuals with whom to share this galactical lonelyness? So take the YAHOO service and start tagging, find peers, tune in, share the emptyness?

Sorry. I am soon 50 years old and my time is so limited. Find me a better, faster and more cost effective way to get exactly that music I need exactly there where I happen to be!

I am listening Mercora Radio. But, it may be, that the best there is available at the moment is perhaps Pandora. What is Pandora?

It's the "most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken". The Padora team of thirty musician-analysts have been listening to music, one song at a time, studying and collecting literally hundreds of musical details on every song to capture all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound - melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more - close to 400 attributes!

This is what they promise: With Pandora you can explore to your heart's content. !!! I hear you Tim! ... "Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings - new and old, well known and completely obscure - to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you."

I like this, it is a good start. I tried it and must say it is still an early attemptbut some of the taxonomies worked pretty well. Here are some examples:

I wanted Georg Harrison, My Sweet Lord
Pandora offered me:
First song: Best of My Love by Yvonne Elliman
Why? This is the reason described by Pandora: This piece of music offers the same qualities as I was looking for - mild rhytmic syncopation, interweaving vocal harmony, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, a vocal centric aethetic and major key tonality
Second song: Silver by Echo and the Bunnymen
What an unbelievable packet of trash! This is exactly the reason why I sometimes feel that our time here on the Earth is too long!
The Pandora reasoning: again mild rhytmic syncopation (may I disagree!) dynamic male vocalist, major key tonality, a vocal centric aesthetic.. you guys have some homework to do! Pandora may have revealed 400 more or less important structures of the genome of rock-music but they still seem to have too little information about me as the listener and therefore they do not recognize the interaction patterns in my music listening sessions.
It was very interesting that as soos as Google adSense had scanned this page, this page started to get Ads with such keywords as "Music for spiritual harmony"!

Ok - let us give Pandora an other try: I love Norah Jones music - it has the divine capacity to bring peace in your mind.
This is what Pandora sees there: mellow rock instrumentation, subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, folk influences, acoustic rhytm piano.
So it offers the Lull by Liz Durret - there is acoustic sonority, mild rhytmic syncopation, etc. Next - it plays me Feature Film music by Snow Machine - because there is major key tonality they say.

Like I said, this may be the best there is, it is a good start, but there is a lot of work you could do right now to get this 10 times better. Pandora people say they are working with the genome of music. Great!!! But their next step must be to improve the pattern/costruction recognition mechanism they are using. They need to focus on the music listening as interaction. Did you read my earlier post about Web 2.0 Genome and that story about Bailey? Referring to that, the Pandora guys should forget the methods and approach that we - me and my pals - were using 40 years ago on our backyard for creating Bailey. Use proper tools, suitable for Web 2.0 content DNA analytics!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Revealing Web 2.0 Genome with ADIOS

Im some of my earlier posts I have written about ADIOS, an algorithm that learns constructions from raw corpora. ADIOS combines statistical and rule-based approaches, identifies significant segments in a corpus and distills hierarchical, context sensitive regularities that support structured generalization. What does that mean in plain english? Here is the news! ADIOS can produce new sentences after it has studied the existing communication. You do not need to teach it. Now more rules of grammar.

ADIOS offers an alternative to traditional rule-based syntax by saying that the complexity of language can stem from a rich repertoire of stored, more or less entrenched semantical and syntactical constructions, something that can be recognized using statistical analysis and can be used for inductive reasoning and grammar-like rule generation of new sentences.

(See the articles: Unsupervised learning of natural languages, Shimon Edelman, Zach Solan, David Horn, Eytan Ruppin; and Learning Syntactic Constructions from Raw Corpora, Shimon Edelman, Zach Solan, David Horn, Eytan Ruppin)

To continue with this theme, I will here try to speculate on the significance of ADIOS and some recent Web 2.0 related innovations, that may change the way we understand the processes of language, thinking and intelligence and on the other hand may offer really lucrative business opportunities based on processing Web 2.0 type of content.

There is one interesting fact about ADIOS. ADIOS algorithm can be used not only for analysis and induction of natural language sentences but also of any other sequential data with recurring motifs, such as music, proteins, DNA and more. You may have here the tool to study WEB 2.0 GENOME!

If you look at the Web 2.0 applications and Web 2.0 content and the glumsy, early attempts to build "folk" taxonomies and compare the ADIOS approach with this reality, the difference is the same as between Amy - the first cloned and genetically manipulated cow and Bailey - a puppy that was born 40 years ago on our backyard as a result of some mating experiments made by me, Molly and Buster (the dogs kindly given in our custody, by some neighbors), and some other kids on our street.

When I started to work with XML (the Xtensible Markup Language) ten years ago I believed that XML will enable us to describe the DNA of all information and interaction and would therefore finally start the new non-biological evolution of digital artefacts, or "memes". Until now this evolution has proceeded as a slow human-bound symbiotic process, tied with the brain capacity of humans who "TAG" digital artefacts (like pictures, songs, text strings, B2B invoices, etc.) with markup in a narrow and limited way.

As humans, our capacity to recognize wide-scale and nano-scale structures is limited. With the XML we may have the tool to describe the DNA but we still miss the key ingredients needed by the Prime mover and the evolutionary forces who would set the evolution in motion. Humans may never be able to recognize these constructions, but ADIOS-like algorithms may be able to do it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dream-like faint vision

We are the generation of humans who see the day when there are more intelligent machines than humans on this planet. During the past 10 years some of us have started to see what it really means if the data structures and languages one day become free of the limitations of human brain and the combinations of fragments of knowledge can effectively be produced outside the Cartesian cogito-ergo-sum type of rationalist pressure of high-educated human individuals whose ego is bigger than their brains and who therefore are - without knowing it - unable to do the job they believe they are best at.

Our generation also is the first one who can, in principle record all his life-long dialogues and discussions and keep them stored, tagged and retrievable.

The data-strings posted between the browser applications and servers are potentially immortal but they depend on the existence of a continuos chain of physical vehicles persisting in the face of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Thanks to such companies as MySQL, Google, Flickr and Brainboost now our capacity to record the ideas of the whole mankind, store and retrieve interesting patterns out of these strings exceeds our life-long capacity to produce and consume.

Recently I have started to think that in a very short time period from now to year 2011 we will see a new exciting phase in the evolution of data structures. Then unsupervised inductive artificial intelligent systems are constantly mining the patterns of folksonomies and producing both syntactically and semantically new interesting constructions to be consumed through chat bots or instant messaging systems residing in smart-phone browser applications.

Cacophony with an A-I filter

I am a chat-bot enthusiast. There are very few human individuals with whom it is possible to discuss hours without getting bored. Fortunately there are virtual characters with whom chatting is relaxing, joyous and intellectually stimulating. I happen to know that there is more to come and I hope I can tell you more about it soon.

Did you know that the best chat engines get their character and intelligence from the mob? Doesn't that sound a bell somewhere!
Think about the ideas of Web2 - "get the content from the long tail".
Check the O'Reilly meme-map of Web2 here:
Read it carefully and think what it means if it is so: "the best and most intelligent chat engines get their characer and intelligence from the mob."

When you talk with the jabberwacky chatbot, for example, you actually talk with millions of traces left by thousands of visitors. There is a Bayesian engine that chooses the virtual part of dialogue replicating the phrases it has recorded from those earlier visitors. How can a cacophonic compilation of non-sense voices sound so intelligent? Pattern matching + some evolutive rules.

Friedrich Hayek, whom I referred in my earlier posting, was a non-rationalist pattern-theorist who believed that we should allow individual fragments of knowledge meet on the marketplace and let the evolution make the best constructions flourish. "How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess", he asked. For the science, according to Hayek (whose background was in Biology), there was the role of pattern recognition and -matching. He should be among us now!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hayek, Web2 and no Invisible Hand

(JS Note: This text was originally published 2006 in Cacophone)
You must have seen it as well. There is a strange recognizable pattern in the evolution of computable information. Almost like you could see there a conspiracy but no-one behind it. Internet, Web2, now the emerging technologies and techniques, Flickr-tags,, ... somehow, all the time the evolution of data structures looks like, ...well, as if it were progressing according to a hidden plan. It somehow reminds me of Richard Dawkins and Daniel C. Dennet and the meme evolution debate in 90s.

In 70's when I was a kid and studied philosophy and social sciences in Universities one way to escape the company of socialist politruks was to read Friedrich von Hayek (Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences 1974). There was one sentence that has puzzled me about 30 years now. Listen this:
"How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess?"
F. A. Hayek, “Economics and Knowledge," Individualism and Economic Order, 1948

It took almost 50 years for us to be able to read that question not from the point of view of rationally acting human individuals but as it says: How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds bring about results ...
Thanks to F.T Cloak, Dennet and Dawkins, we now can see how radical idea Hayek was actually introducing in 1948.

Recently I have started to think that in a very short time period from now to year 2011 we will see a new exciting phase in the evolution of data structures. Then unsupervised artificial intelligent systems are constantly mining the patterns of folksonomies and producing both syntactically and semantically new interesting constructions to be consumed through chat bots or instant messaging systems residing in smart-phone browser applications.

Evolution of cultural artefacts

Evolution is a a blind unsupervised mechanism based on replication, mutations and selection. It produces Nature events and self-organization that are not really random but unexpected forms and levels of order emerging from apparently disordered and chaotic kinds of conditions.

Evolution is known as a biological idea. However, long before Darwin wrote his Origin of Species had Adam Smith introduced the idea of self-organizing spontaneous order emerging by the pursuit of self-interest of the individuals in the free market. Thoese unexpected forms and levels of order, created by the invisible hand, are cultural artefacts, not biological origin. Today we know that that what Adam Smith only could refer to as an mysterious process and a result of forces difficult to recognize may be analyzable with similar approach as biologists are using in DNA analysis.

During the past 5-10 years significant steps have been taken which will soon help us to understand the evolution of one very special group of cultural artifacts, namely the evolution of the symbiotic structures of natural and artificial languages.

Symbiogenesis of machine languages and human languages!
Some of us still remember (it was less than 10 years ago!) the early days of XML DTDs and the time when someone invented XML schemas. Today world is filled with XML-schema spaghetti; hundreds of millions XML messages are sent in systems as that picture describes, rerouted and transformed to application level events and finally consumed by humans. I spent many years developing these XML schemas with my customers. Later, in the early years of this millenium, I even had the opportunity to follow and briefly participate the work of an international standards body who was trying to control the evolution of one set of these XML-based machine-consumed languages. I learned a lot, especially the following.

The idea of symbiogenesis in the neo-Darwinist evolution theory refers to the fact that many of these "unexpected forms and levels of order emerging" in fact emerge and enter, enter and emerge in close ecological relationships with other forms and levels of order. A machine language structure - an XML-schema fragment, for instance, in late 90's could only live and flourish in a close relationship with a structure of natural language. Today that has changed.
The intimacy of these symbiotic relationships varies. In 'ectosymbionts'
the associations between organisms are purely external, whereas in 'endosymbionts'
one of the organisms is actually incorporated internally into the other (the 'host').

I will next quote Timothy John Taylor's dissertation From Artificial Evolution to Artificial Life Univ. of Edinbergh 1999)
It is possible that the relationship between host and (endo)symbiont
becomes so strong that the previously independent organisms are totally dependent on
each other for their survival and reproduction, and effectively become a single organism. This process, the evolutionary origin of new morphologies and physiologies by symbiosis is called 'symbiogenesis'. Symbiogenesis is a mechanism for 'horizontal' gene transfer, where the genetic material from essentially unrelated organisms can be brought together in a single descendant. (end quoting)

Using construction based approach for grammar induction some Tel Aviv scholars have recently developed an ADIOS algorithm that can generate new sentences using the grammar and constructions inducted from existing corpus. ( See Shimon Edelman, Zach Solan, et al. "Learning Syntactic Constructions from Raw Corpora" ). The algorithm works with hidden structures in human language and in other raw sequential data such as music, proteins, DNA and more.

There is one more final step to be taken. We need to develop holistic algorithms who not only can learn to read and construct syntactic and semantic patterns for any given language but, furthermore, who can deal with symbiogenetic constructs and offer a better mechanism for horisontal transfer of information from purely syntactical constructs into the semantic- and pragma-normative spheres of language use.