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The Physics of Culture

TED Talk–Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world

I’m sure that many of you are aware that companies such as Netflix and Amazon run software that tries to predict what movies you like or what your next purchase should be. You may even joke about it or laugh at the suggestions that are proposed. What it comes down to, though, is that there are software algorithms out there trying to describe you. This software is trying to figure out a deterministic formula for you.

Think about that.

Kevin Slavin says:

This isn’t Google. This isn’t information. These aren’t financial stats. This is culture. And what you see here, or what you don’t really see, normally, is that these are the physics of culture. If these algorithms, like the algorithms on Wall Street, crashed one day and went awry, how would we know? What would it look like?

Kevin explains in this wonderful TED Talk how we are writing algorithms that we no longer understand and are unable to predict. In essence, we’ve created another “force of nature".

via BoingBoing


August 1, 2011 Posted by | Science and Technology, Software | , , , , , | Comments Off on The Physics of Culture

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

You would think that monetary reward is the primary motivator for human beings to perform their best. You’d be right for simple tasks, but once you enter the realm of more complicated and more cognitive-intensive tasks, things turn upside-down.

The embedded video above is an excerpt from Dan Pink’s TED talk on motivation:

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

via RSA Animate via TED GlobalThanks for the scoop, Ken!

June 7, 2010 Posted by | How-To, Productivity, Science and Technology, Video | , , | 2 Comments

How Gaming can Save the World

The cynics out there might chuckle at the title of this post, but there’s truth behind it.  Don’t take my word for it: (via Powered by the Tubes)

A TED talk I found truly amazing.

The speaker Jane McGonigal is a game designer who recently spoke on TED. Her big idea is that the average person is going to spend about the same time playing video games by the age of 21 as they will spend in every hour of school from 5th grade to high school graduation. That means that people are spending a second education’s worth of time getting good at something. Harnessing that something could be the key to saving the world.

She goes on to lists games that she has piloted to achieve this goal and all in all it is a very inspiring talk. Everyone knows making things a game works to make them a lot less tedious and bearable. Many of us are also driven by a competitive nature. If that could be channeled into doing good for the world or even your local area that would be awesome.

My parents were anti-gaming, so I had to sneak my gaming time at friends’ houses. My wife is anti-gaming, so I have to get my gaming time in during off hours. Despite the different vectors of negative connotation for gaming in my life, I still strongly believe that gaming teaches and reinforces useful and applicable skills in real life including problem-solving (think Zelda), group collaboration (think about taking a boss down in World of Warcraft), project management (that boss in World of Warcraft might take upwards of 30+ people to work together), hand-eye coordination (there’s a correlation that surgeons who gamed more had fewer errors) and hard work (sometimes you need to grind levels to make a character more powerful, think Final Fantasy).

As Jane McGonigal mentioned in her talk, gaming avatars can represent the most ideal person we can possibly be. I think that putting hours into practicing that will benefit the entire world.

Thanks for the link Brian!

via Powered by the Tubes via Kotaku via TED: Ideas worth spreading

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Games and Gaming, Geeks and Gadgetry, Philosophy, Video | , , | Comments Off on How Gaming can Save the World

Game Changing Wearable Technology

Wearable Computing, the next level

Imagine a wearable computing device that will project a Minority Report user-interface on any surface.  A few more levels deeper and we’ll have wearable technology akin to Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End, which I think is completely possible within our lifetimes, and most definitely possible within our children’s lifetimes.

One more level after this, we’re talking Ghost in the Shell level of human/computer integration.

Thanks for the link, Dan!

via TED

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Geeks and Gadgetry, Science and Technology, Video | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Game Changing Wearable Technology