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eyal matsliah

Wired 13.08: We Are the Web - 0 views

  • What happens when the data flow is asymmetrical - but in favor of creators? What happens when everyone is uploading far more than they download? If everyone is busy making, altering, mixing, and mashing, who will have time to sit back and veg out? Who will be a consumer?

    No one. And that's just fine. A world where production outpaces consumption should not be sustainable; that's a lesson from Economics 101. But online, where many ideas that don't work in theory succeed in practice, the audience increasingly doesn't matter. What matters is the network of social creation, the community of collaborative interaction that futurist Alvin Toffler called prosumption. > As with blogging and BitTorrent, prosumers produce and consume at once. The producers are the audience, the act of making is the act of watching, and every link is both a point of departure and a destination.

  • And who will write the software that makes this contraption useful and productive? We will. In fact, we're already doing it, each of us, every day. When we post and then tag pictures on the community photo album Flickr, we are teaching the Machine to give names to images. The thickening links between caption and picture form a neural net that can learn.
  • The more we teach this megacomputer, the more it will assume responsibility for our knowing. It will become our memory. Then it will become our identity.
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  • As with blogging and BitTorrent, prosumers produce and consume at once. The producers are the audience, the act of making is the act of watching, and every link is both a point of departure and a destination.
  • The fear of commercialization was strongest among hardcore programmers: the coders, Unix weenies, TCP/IP fans, and selfless volunteer IT folk who kept the ad hoc network running. The major administrators thought of their work as noble, a gift to humanity. They saw the Internet as an open commons, not to be undone by greed or commercialization. It's hard to believe now, but until 1991, commercial enterprise on the Internet was strictly prohibited. Even then, the rules favored public institutions and forbade "extensive use for private or personal business."
  • Wikipedia encourages its citizen authors to link each fact in an article to a reference citation. Over time, a Wikipedia article becomes totally underlined in blue as ideas are cross-referenced. That massive cross-referencing is how brains think and remember. It is how neural nets answer questions. It is how our global skin of neurons will adapt autonomously and acquire a higher level of knowledge.
  • He was talking about the company's vision of the thin-client desktop, but his phrase neatly sums up the destiny of the Web: As the OS for a megacomputer that encompasses the Internet, all its services, all peripheral chips and affiliated devices from scanners to satellites, and the billions of human minds entangled in this global network. This gargantuan Machine already exists in a primitive form. In the coming decade, it will evolve into an integral extension not only of our senses and bodies but our minds.
  • Not only did we fail to imagine what the Web would become, we still don't see it today! We are blind to the miracle it has blossomed into. And as a result of ignoring what the Web really is, we are likely to miss what it will grow into over the next 10 years. Any hope of discerning the state of the Web in 2015 requires that we own up to how wrong we were 10 years ago.
  • Three months later, Netscape's public offering took off, and in a blink a world of DIY possibilities was born. Suddenly it became clear that ordinary people could create material anyone with a connection could view. The burgeoning online audience no longer needed ABC for content. Netscape's stock peaked at $75 on its first day of trading, and the world gasped in awe. Was this insanity, or the start of something new?
  • >

    The human brain has no department full of programming cells that configure the mind. Rather, brain cells program themselves simply by being used. Likewise, our questions program the Machine to answer questions. We think we are merely wasting time when we surf mindlessly or blog an item, but each time we click a link we strengthen a node somewhere in the Web OS, thereby programming the Machine by using it. >

  • And the most universal. By 2015, desktop operating systems will be largely irrelevant. The Web will be the only OS worth coding for. It won't matter what device you use, as long as it runs on the Web OS. You will reach the same distributed computer whether you log on via phone, PDA, laptop, or HDTV.
  • After the hysteria has died down, after the millions of dollars have been gained and lost, after the strands of mind, once achingly isolated, have started to come together - the only thing we can say is: Our Machine is born. It's on. >
  • Download rates far exceeded upload rates. The dogma of the age held that ordinary people had no need to upload; they were consumers, not producers. Fast-forward to today, and the poster child of the new Internet regime is BitTorrent. The brilliance of BitTorrent is in its exploitation of near-symmetrical communication rates. Users upload stuff while they are downloading. It assumes participation, not mere consumption. Our communication infrastructure has taken only the first steps in this great shift from audience to participants, but that is where it will go in the next decade.
  • community of collaborative interaction that futurist Alvin Toffler called prosumption.
  • We Are the Web 

    The Netscape IPO wasn't really about dot-commerce. At its heart was a new cultural force based on mass collaboration. Blogs, Wikipedia, open source, peer-to-peer - behold the power of the people.
    By Kevin Kelly
  • These are safe bets, but they fail to capture the Web's disruptive trajectory. The real transformation under way is more akin to what Sun's John Gage had in mind in 1988 when he famously said, "The network > is > the computer." > He was talking about the company's vision of the thin-client desktop, but his phrase neatly sums up the destiny of the Web: As the OS for a megacomputer that encompasses the Internet, all its services, all peripheral chips and affiliated devices from scanners to satellites, and the billions of human minds entangled in this global network. This gargantuan Machine already exists in a primitive form. In the coming decade, it will evolve into an integral extension not only of our senses and bodies but our minds.
  • When a company opens its databases to users, as Amazon, Google, and eBay have done with their Web services, it is encouraging participation at new levels. The corporation's data becomes part of the commons and an invitation to participate. People who take advantage of these capabilities are no longer customers; they're the company's developers, vendors, skunk works, and fan base.
  • The deep enthusiasm for making things, for interacting more deeply than just choosing options, is the great force not reckoned 10 years ago. This impulse for participation has upended the economy and is steadily turning the sphere of social networking - smart mobs, hive minds, and collaborative action - into the main event.
  • But if we have learned anything in the past decade, it is the plausibility of the impossible >.
  • Today, the Machine acts like a very large computer with top-level functions that operate at approximately the clock speed of an early PC. It processes 1 million emails each second, which essentially means network email runs at 1�megahertz. Same with Web searches. Instant messaging runs at 100�kilohertz, SMS at 1�kilohertz. The Machine's total external RAM is about 200 terabytes. In any one second, 10 terabits can be coursing through its backbone, and each year it generates nearly 20 exabytes of data. Its distributed "chip" spans 1 billion active PCs, which is approximately the number of transistors in one PC.
  • 2005
    The scope of the Web today is hard to fathom. The total number of Web pages, including those that are dynamically created upon request and document files available through links, exceeds 600 billion. That's 100�pages per person alive.

    How could we create so much, so fast, so well? In fewer than 4,000 days, we have encoded half a trillion versions of our collective story and put them in front of 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world's population. That remarkable achievement was not in anyone's 10-year plan.

  • Instead, we have an open global flea market that handles 1.4 billion auctions every year and operates from your bedroom. Users do most of the work; they photograph, catalog, post, and manage their own auctions. And they police themselves; while eBay and other auction sites do call in the authorities to arrest serial abusers, the chief method of ensuring fairness is a system of user-generated ratings. Three billion feedback comments can work wonders.
  • There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. Later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born. >

    You and I are alive at this moment. >

  • These user-created channels make no sense economically. Where are the time, energy, and resources coming from?

    The audience.

  • Danny Hillis, a computer scientist who once claimed he wanted to make an AI "that would be proud of me," has invented massively parallel supercomputers in part to advance us in that direction. He now believes the > first real AI will emerge not in a stand-alone supercomputer like IBM's proposed > 23-teraflop Blue Brain, but in the vast digital tangle of the global Machine. >
  • This planet-sized computer is comparable in complexity to a human brain. Both the brain and the Web have hundreds of billions of neurons (or Web pages). Each biological neuron sprouts synaptic links to thousands of other neurons, while each Web page branches into dozens of hyperlinks. That adds up to a trillion "synapses" between the static pages on the Web. The human brain has about 100 times that number - but brains are not doubling in size every few years. The Machine is.
  • There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. Later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born.

    You and I are alive at this moment.

  • Still, the birth of a machine that subsumes all other machines so that in effect there is only one Machine, which penetrates our lives to such a degree that it becomes essential to our identity - this will be full of surprises. Especially since it is only the beginning.
  • The most obvious development birthed by this platform will be the absorption of routine. The Machine will take on anything we do more than twice. It will be the Anticipation Machine.
  • Since each of its "transistors" is itself a personal computer with a billion transistors running lower functions, the Machine is fractal. In total, it harnesses a quintillion transistors, expanding its complexity beyond that of a biological brain. It has already surpassed the 20-petahertz threshold for potential intelligence as calculated by Ray Kurzweil. For this reason some researchers pursuing artificial intelligence have switched their bets to the Net as the computer most likely to think first.
  • I run a blog about cool tools. I write it for my own delight and for the benefit of friends. The Web extends my passion to a far wider group for no extra cost or effort. In this way, my site is part of a vast and growing gift economy, a visible underground of valuable creations - text, music, film, software, tools, and services - all given away for free. This gift economy fuels an abundance of choices. It spurs the grateful to reciprocate. It permits easy modification and reuse, and thus promotes consumers into producers.
  • Senior maverick Kevin Kelly (kk@kk.org) wrote about the universe as a computer in issue 10.12.
  • Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on a Web page as a way of teaching the Machine what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach it an idea.
  • What we all failed to see was how much of this new world would be manufactured by users, not corporate interests. Amazon.com customers rushed with surprising speed and intelligence to write the reviews that made the site's long-tail selection usable. Owners of Adobe, Apple, and most major software products offer help and advice on the developer's forum Web pages, serving as high-quality customer support for new buyers. And in the greatest leverage of the common user, Google turns traffic and link patterns generated by 2�billion searches a month into the organizing intelligence for a new economy. This bottom-up takeover was not in anyone's 10-year vision.
  • And anyone could rustle up a link - which, it turns out, is the most powerful invention of the decade.

    Linking unleashes involvement and interactivity at levels once thought unfashionable or impossible. It transforms reading into navigating and enlarges small actions into powerful forces. For instance, hyperlinks made it much easier to create a seamless, scrolling street map of every town. They made it easier for people to refer to those maps. And hyperlinks made it possible for almost anyone to annotate, amend, and improve any map embedded in the Web. Cartography has gone from spectator art to participatory democracy.

  • In the years roughly coincidental with the Netscape IPO, humans began animating inert objects with tiny slivers of intelligence, connecting them into a global field, and linking their own minds into a single thing. This will be recognized as the largest, most complex, and most surprising event on the planet. Weaving nerves out of glass and radio waves, our species began wiring up all regions, all processes, all facts and notions into a grand network. From this embryonic neural net was born a collaborative interface for our civilization, a sensing, cognitive device with power that exceeded any previous invention. The Machine provided a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall) and a new mind for an old species. It was the Beginning.
  • This view is spookily godlike. You can switch your gaze of a spot in the world from map to satellite to 3-D just by clicking. Recall the past? It's there. Or listen to the daily complaints and travails of almost anyone who blogs (and doesn't everyone?). I doubt angels have a better view of humanity.
  • The fetal Machine has been running continuously for at least 10 years (30 if you want to be picky). I am aware of no other machine - of any type - that has run that long with zero downtime. While portions may spin down due to power outages or cascading infections, the entire thing is unlikely to go quiet in the coming decade. It will be the most reliable gadget we have.
  • But if
  • It's on.
  • At its heart was a new kind of participation that has since developed into an emerging culture based on sharing. And the ways of participating unleashed by hyperlinks are creating a new type of thinking - part human and part machine - found nowhere else on the planet or in history.
  • "The network is the computer."
  • supercomputers in part to advance us in that direction. He now believes the first real AI will emerge not in a stand-alone supercomputer like IBM's proposed 23-teraflop Blue Brain, but in the vast digital tangle of the global Machine.
  • Amish Web sites?
  • it is the plausibility of the impossible
  • The human brain has no department full of programming cells that configure the mind. Rather, brain cells program themselves simply by being used. Likewise, our questions program the Machine to answer questions. We think we are merely wasting time when we surf mindlessly or blog an item, but each time we click a link we strengthen a node somewhere in the Web OS, thereby programming the Machine by using it.
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