Σάββατο, 18 Ιουνίου 2011

Collective or social intelligence

Wordle: Social Intelligence

The value of any media is directly proportional to the culture of those who use it. Following this logic I present the path followed by the Social Network Services and the internet in general. Understanding of the direction of evolution for new media will help in the realistic evaluation and use by the community. Also it will help overcome prejudice and cultrural barriers that exist. If there is a shared vision of what we want to achieve then the effectiveness of the medi will be optimal.

Flood of Information

Web sites - Social Media - Augmented reality - Location based services - Blogs - Facebook - Twitter - Internet of things. Terms and concepts which lead to a certain outcome: Plenty of information about people, places, objects and personal views on any matter possible in human mind. A vast universe of information, occasionaly useful, that can result to knowledge or even better wisdom, as long as we become aware of high quality data at the right time. But this immense stream of data is flowing around us and goes untapped, though thankfully recorded and registered. To turn this around and exploit the full potential of the available data, these must be recorded, formatted, categorized so that they become understandable and accessible (in terms of volume and quality), and then should be made easily available to anyone interested! In brief I would say that recorded data should be attributed a meaning (or more!).

 Current technology has given us the means of recording (PCs, networks, open space, GPS, cameras, mobile phones, RFiD) and with the architecture of CLOUD there is ample storage space and computer-processing power. For the past few years has begun with demonic pace, that exceeds our imagination, the recording of information of both the natural world and the spiritual. Tools have also been developed, that can relay this information to all interested parties at any given time. Actually this trend was initiated back in the late '90s when platforms like "Autonomy" made their appearance. It is obvious to see the strength of this trend, just by following the number of doctorates - thesis that have been "invested" on this direction of the information technology market around the world.

Nowadays, the rate of growth of available information is beyond the capability of monitoring and retrieval not only for the average person, but even for specialists or teams of specialists! This rate will certainly continue to accelerate and inflate. So this inflated wealth of info will only grow as there is now a steady flow of data even from objects / devices (internet of things). Under these circumstances, the stored information does not create knowledge at the moment as fast as one would imagine.

Knowledge from the information

Obviously the facts mentioned above highlight the importance of procedures, techniques - visualization and dissemination of knowledge (not simply information) that can be derived from all available data. The average individual in the contemporary society and on an everyday base, should be able to take advantage of the available knowledge stemming from the data. The "nervous system" to transfer the information recorded by the "sensors" is available already. Where "nervous system" put the communication networks and where "sensors" put persons and devices that transmit information. The "recording memory" also exists and I am reffering to the central storage of information, as well as individual - personal capabilities.

The technology should provide us the capability to retrieve, visualize and to some extent automate the transmission of knowledge. We should be able to "see" in front of us solutions, the moment we need them. Solutions that have been used in the past or solutions that may arise from a combination of stored relevant information.

This requires an analysis of the meaning of the information stored so that the neccessary links are established. The meaning can be derived and assigned from some measurable physical characteristics or data analysis. 
  • The simple first step is to georeferenced information. So interested parties can access information in the geographical scope. This is already starting to happen.
  • A second step is the symantic categorization which is achieved by keywords or by using special tags - markings (see # tags to Twitter for example). These two steps are underway in recent years.
  • Most difficult step is classifying attributes relating to identification based on shape, color, material and size, or even smell. This means that objects or persons are automatically recognized by their appearance! This will enable automatic connections (eg, automatic grouping of all clothing or all vehicles or all edible mushrooms!)
  • Indirect evaluation of information can be derived from the use they had by other interested parties in the past. Every time a piece of information is being used for a purpose, the nature of this use should be recorded and added to the attributes.
  • Another level could be their "lifeline" or evolution of use on a timeline. I am referring to the activity or value timeline as it is recorded through search engines, social networking or sensor recording. First hints of use of this "life-cycle" values are the various trend-reporting services that have been presented by engines like Google or Twitter, etc.
Then we come to the visualization of the relevant information. The presentation must be based on the associated "meanings". It should also be as straightforward as possible. Without requiring neither search procedures on sources (which can be practically infinite) nor evaluation of data (which should be automatic). This way location, quality and identity of information are combined and the user sees only relevant - useful entries, probably ranked according to some criteria.

It is obvious that the amount of available information can make visualization complicated (especially if it includes historical factors). Hence we get to the necessity to come up with new technological solutions and visualization methods that will make the flow of data comprehensible. Existing example of such user interfaces, include overlapping levels, projected on real life scenery, or graphic representation of streams on timeline, etc. But we need to design new interfaces to facilitate handy browsing for users.

In this evolution we should include new software and applications that link the meaning from many sources and create a "flow" of information and trends. Also, new hardware is needed (transparent organic displays, or maybe even body implants). A new generation of graphics is an obvious solution. The advantage of graphic representation is that they are compatible with the existing culture and educational system for most users.

The ethics of knowledge
If we focus on the last two points (mentioned above) of the procedures that assign meaning to stored information, we can instantly understand that they are subjective and dependent on the user behavior. In a world with a culture of collective wisdom and knowledge, each person using the information and their derivatives, have a responsibility towards the community for the proper ethical use. By this I do not imply in any way manipulation of free will and cultural variety, but rather a methodology of thinking and linking it with information. Actions based on the available information must have a rational thinking behind them. Or contribution to the knowledge base must be done with a sense of social responsibility and not recklessly.

The danger of creating very conservative societies and manipulating the way of thinking of many people, is real though. This can happen by the formulation of knowledge that will be applied by systems, as well as from the extensive analysis of data and situations. As knowledge is derived by systems and methods, this incorporates certain degree of predictions and evaluations. This by nature is conservative, since any change i the status quo, should be acceptable thus predicted by the system itself! There are obvious conservative political repercussions. In his account, this faith in the technologically augmented system model becomes a reason to defend the status quo. This problem constitutes a whole subject by itself and can be a very serious discussion on cybernetics. A relevant articles can be seen here: The Limits of Big Data - ReadWriteCloud as well as a BBC documentary: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

The "classes" of the knowledge society

This process of collective knowledge will lead to some new "classes" of people and systems.
  • Authors / creators = those who produce wisdom in the first level. I am referring to the "birth" of knowledge through a process of analysis, study, awareness and reporting
  • Repeaters = those who forward, promote and enrich to some degree the knowledge which is produced by systems or "creators". People or brands or companies with influence and an effective distribution network.
  • Consumers = Readers and users of knowledge as produced and broadcasted.
Although, the class of authors, is particularly valuable, all the "classes" add value to information, even through simple usage. Even the statistical analysis of their activity or the evaluation of it, will add more levels to the knowledge base. So, even the simple "consumer" can and should be aware of his role and importance in this chain of "knowledge building".

Our culture has already moved on from information society to knowledge. The power now is in the "owner" of knowledge as it is derived from publicly available information. And of course this leads to effective application of knowledge to everyday or even more complicated decisions and procedures.

Further reading: Birth of the global mind - FT.com 

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