Birth of the Global Mind


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My talk at the Long Now Foundation seminars on Long Term Thinking on September 5, 2012. Overlaps with a number of other talks, but contains material not found anywhere else. Audio and video are available at

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Birth of the Global Mind

  1. Towards a Global Brain Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly) O’Reilly Media The Long Now Foundation San Francisco, CA September 5, 2012Friday, January 4, 2013
  2. “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.” -Edwin SchlossbergFriday, January 4, 2013 Often, the shape of the emerging world is right in front of our faces, but we can’t see it because we aren’t framing it in the right way. I’m going to talk about some things tonight that may seem familiar, but that in aggregate are adding up to something “rich and strange.” I’m also going to give you a bit of personal history that explains how some of my ideas have evolved, and tie together the imaginations of the human potential movement of the 1970s and the reality that has emerged over the past few decades and is continuing to unfold.
  3. The extraordinary convergence of computing and human potentialFriday, January 4, 2013 What I want to give you is some context for thinking about the extraordinary convergence of computing and human potential
  4. Towards a global brainFriday, January 4, 2013That is leading us towards what we might truly call a global brain.
  5. The Singularity?Friday, January 4, 2013 For a lot of people in these circles this idea may overlap with the notion of the Singularity, which in turn is tied up in ideas of massive advances in artificial intelligence, perhaps even leading to self-aware machine intelligences.
  6. “One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” - Stan Ulam, recounting a conversation with John von Neumann in 1958Friday, January 4, 2013By the way, while this concept is often attributed to science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, or to Ray Kurzweil, it turns out theearliest instance of the concept of the Technological Singularity as a point in the human future that we can’t see beyond actuallywas attributed by Stan Ulam to John von Neumann, who, as George Dyson is fond of pointing out, anticipated more of today’smost important ideas than we give him credit for.
  7. Dystopian visionsFriday, January 4, 2013And of course there are lots of dystopian visions of this future from popular culture, like The Terminator’s Skynet, or The Matrix.But the future is far stranger and more interesting than that.
  8. Friday, January 4, 2013I have to give a small nod here to Long Now board member Kevin Kelly’s notion of “the Technium” as a new order in the tree oflife, and his idea that we might well think of “an emerging superorganism of computers.” I think he’s really onto somethingthere, and
  9. “Technology is a living force that can expand our individual potential - if we listen to what it wants.” - Kevin KellyFriday, January 4, 2013I urge all of you to read Kevin’s new book, What Technology Wants. But I think that what’s happening with computers is only halfof the story. To understand what I mean by that, we have to go back in time.
  10. George SimonFriday, January 4, 2013My own interest in the future of human consciousness began in the 1970s, when I worked with a man named George Simon. Iwas just a kid, and George was one of many people in the ferment that we now refer to as the Human Potential Movement.When I first met George, he was trying out his ideas on my older brother’s Boy Scout Explorer Troop. A few years later, he wasgiving workshops at the Esalen Institute. (In fact, I helped teach workshops with him at Esalen when I was only 18.)I’m going to take a little detour into this material, because I’ve had a number of people ask me over the years about therelationship between the ideas of the human potential movement and modern technology.
  11. A “mathematical” language for consciousness This was the first book I ever published, right out of college. I transcribed and abridged George’s notebooks, after he died in an accident.Friday, January 4, 2013George had the notion that you could create useful “maps” and “languages” that described the evolution of humanconsciousness from far into the past and into the distant future.
  12. Alfred Korzybski: General SemanticsFriday, January 4, 2013His work began with some of the notions of Alfred Korzybski, a writer and thinker from the 1930s who created a movement thathe called “General Semantics.” Korzybski’s central notion was that language is a map that helps us to see the world moreclearly.
  13. Language is a map that can help us see more deeply Alfalfa Oat Grass Orchard GrassFriday, January 4, 2013Here’s a simple example from my own experience. When I first moved to Sebastopol, I’d lookout in a meadow and see “grass.” A few years later, owning horses, I’d look into the meadowand see Alfalfa, Oat Grass, Orchard Grass, Rye Grass. The names helped me to see anddistinguish. The distinctions are in the real world, but the names are a map that helps toremember, communicate, and even to see.
  14. “The map is not the territory.”Friday, January 4, 2013One of Korzybski’s best-known statements - “the map is not the territory” - is echoed in this famouspainting by Magritte. Korzybski focused on aberrations in thinking - racism for example - asthe result of “bad maps” that guide us astray because we mix up the word with the thing, anddon’t go back to underlying experience.
  15. Korzybski’s “Structural Differential” was a training device to help recognize the process of abstractionFriday, January 4, 2013
  16. The real world is represented by a parabola because it’s open ended and effectively infiniteFriday, January 4, 2013
  17. Our individual experiences leave out much detail of the events that triggered them. And none of those experiences are identical.Friday, January 4, 2013
  18. We label our experiences. The problem is that many of us get lost in labels and forget they aren’t the underlying realityFriday, January 4, 2013
  19. The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo The “Supramental” God as “etc”Friday, January 4, 2013In typical 1970s syncretistic style, George mashed Korzybski’s ideas up with those of Sri Aurobindo, an Indian thinker who spokeof a future expansion of human consciousness that we could do spiritual practice to grow into. George equated Korzybski’sinfinite parabola with Aurobindo’s “supra-mental consciousness” and said “God is “etcetera” - that which we haven’t yet beenable to bring down into human consciousness.
  20. There’s really something out there A C “Beingness” “Identity” B D “Experience” “Map”Friday, January 4, 2013George represented this idea (and some others that he took from Indian thinker Sri Aurobindo) in this “map” of the perceptualprocess. There’s an outside reality
  21. We take it in A C “Beingness” “Identity” B D “Experience” “Map”Friday, January 4, 2013
  22. Socratic dialogues, then and now... A C “Beingness” “Identity” B D “Experience” “Map”Friday, January 4, 2013
  23. We become the sum of our experiences and the stories A C “Beingness” “Identity” B D “Experience” “Map”Friday, January 4, 2013
  24. Knowing where you are in the process helps you to correct your map A C “Beingness” “Identity” B D “Experience” “Map”Friday, January 4, 2013Even though this may seem like wacky stuff, a lot of the techniques I learned from George, to separate from the existinglanguage and received thinking about any given topic, have served me well over the years. It’s by trying to see with fresh eyesthat I was able to “remap” free software into open source, to reframe what was happening in the software industry aroundconcepts like “Web 2.0”. I wrote about this in a piece called “Remaking the Peer-to-Peer Meme”
  25. This process occurs at a species level as well as an individual level.Friday, January 4, 2013But here’s the point about all this that’s relevant to the topic at hand tonight:
  26. Collectively, we are the sum of all that has gone before us.Friday, January 4, 2013
  27. Human consciousness is still evolvingFriday, January 4, 2013
  28. In Homer, there is no word that corresponds to what we think of today as either “body” or “soul.” There is no sense of individual choice; all decisions are the influence of the gods. By the Athenian Golden Age four centuries later, the outline of the “modern” mind as we know it today was clear.Friday, January 4, 2013In 1972, I went to Harvard to get a degree in Classics. I was particularly interested in understanding the transition to the modernmind. Famous classicist Bruno Snell had written a book entitled Discovery of the Mind that fascinated me.
  29. The “bricoleur” or “handyman” vs the engineerFriday, January 4, 2013In many ways, the “modern” mindset is, at bottom, an engineering mindset. You discover the rules of the world and you putthem to work.
  30. “Reality is an activity of the most august imagination” - Wallace StevensFriday, January 4, 2013When I imagined the next stage of human evolution, it was much more of an aesthetic vision. The poet Wallace Stevens said“Reality is...” and in his work, he explored the notion that reality is something we create, and that ultimately, our creative task isto build shared visions that are not strictly true. “Reality is the beginning, not the end, the naked alpha not the hierophantomega...”
  31. 1975 Harvard Honors Thesis: Mysticism vs logic in Plato’s dialoguesFriday, January 4, 2013I explored some related ideas in my 1975 honors thesis at Harvard. My notion was that some long standing questions about thesources of mystical imagery in Plato could be resolved if you understood that concepts that we now comfortably replay were,when first conceived, powerful and numinous, entirely worthy of the exalted language that Plato bestowed on them.
  32. Socratic dialogues, then and now... A C “Beingness” “Identity” B D “Experience” “Map” Wow! OK. Got that.Friday, January 4, 2013
  33. The next stage is a kind of global consciousnessFriday, January 4, 2013George had the idea that the next stage of human consciousness was global, in contrast to the development of individuality overthe last three thousand years.
  34. The 70s were full of mystical imaginings about this future stateFriday, January 4, 2013He wasn’t alone. Teilhard de Chardin and many others also speculated about a future global mind. Chardin called it “thenoosphere”
  35. The Harmonic ConvergenceFriday, January 4, 2013And this kind of thing persisted well into the 80s. I imagine many of you remember the so-called Harmonic Convergence of1987 that was supposed to usher in a new age of shared consciousness.
  36. New age mumbo-jumbo?Friday, January 4, 2013
  37. 2003Friday, January 4, 2013Fast forward to 2003.
  38. Paradigm Shift: A Change in World View That Calls Everything You Know Into QuestionFriday, January 4, 2013I was giving talks about the implications of the web for the future of the softwareindustry.
  39. Killer Apps of the InternetFriday, January 4, 2013I pointed out that the “killer apps” of the internet were all informationapplications.
  40. Not Just Software: "Infoware" • Editorial content as part of the user interface • Users help to build the product • The product changes every day • The Internet, not the PC, is the platformFriday, January 4, 2013The internet was theplatform.
  41. Software as Service Von Kempelens Mechanical TurkFriday, January 4, 2013 But perhaps most importantly, in contrast to the previous generations of software, people are still inside the application. Story of Jeff Friedl and regular expressions for Yahoo Finance! I used the image of von Kempelen’s Mechanical Turk to illustrate this idea. For those of you who don’t know this story, in 1770, Ludwig von Kempelen introduced what purported to be a chess playing automaton. In fact, it was a hoax, because a human chess player was hidden inside.
  42. 42Friday, January 4, 2013 By 2004, my colleague Dale Dougherty had come up with a new name for this new era in the software industry. He called it Web 2.0, to signify the second coming of the web after the dotcom bust. I told a big story about this, and what distinguished the companies that survived the bust from those that had failed. The heart of my idea was
  43. 42Friday, January 4, 2013 By 2004, my colleague Dale Dougherty had come up with a new name for this new era in the software industry. He called it Web 2.0, to signify the second coming of the web after the dotcom bust. I told a big story about this, and what distinguished the companies that survived the bust from those that had failed. The heart of my idea was
  44. Using the Internet as a Platform 43Friday, January 4, 2013 those that survived were using the internet as a platform
  45. Harnessing Collective Intelligence 44Friday, January 4, 2013 for harnessing collective intelligence.
  46. So, maybe there was something to that 70’s vision after all...Friday, January 4, 2013But it happened through technology instead of through some kind of mystical union.So let’s go back to the beginning, and think about what collective intelligence is, and how our mechanisms for achieving it haveevolved.
  47. “time-binding”Friday, January 4, 2013Alfred Korzybski had a wonderful concept that we can start with. He described language, perhaps the greatest and mostimportant of all human inventions, as “time binding” - a way of taking something out of the here and now, packaging it up andpassing it down through time and space.
  48. You can look at the evolution of human consciousness as the evolution of our ability to transfer ideas and information from mind to mindFriday, January 4, 2013
  49. Spoken languageFriday, January 4, 2013
  50. Written languageFriday, January 4, 2013
  51. Mass mediaFriday, January 4, 2013
  52. The internetFriday, January 4, 2013
  53. Friday, January 4, 2013But what’s different now is the way that electronic media speeds up that process. Using twitter, we can instantly learn abouttrending topics around the world, and share in the responses of others. Hashtags in particular are a great example of a principlethat Danny Hillis once articulated.
  54. “global consciousness is that thing responsible for deciding that pots containing decaffeinated coffee should be orange” – Danny Hillis (via Jeff Bezos) –, January 4, 2013At our Emerging Technology Conference in 2005, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recounted a conversation he’d had with computerscientist Danny Hillis, in which Danny said [quote above]. Now this is nothing new. Speech, the written word, printed books andnewspapers, the telephone, radio and television are all technologies for passing knowledge from mind to mind.
  55. We are all Khaled SaidFriday, January 4, 2013This new real time mind-sharing capability can be used to organize large numbers of people for political purposes, as we saw inlast year’s uprisings in the Middle East.
  56. Friday, January 4, 2013Technology-enabled cooperation can be very simple, as with a wiki. Here’s for example, is the initial wikipedia page for thegreat earthquake that hit Japan last year.
  57. Friday, January 4, 2013Within a short time, through thousands of edits by thousands of interested individuals, it turned into a full-featuredencyclopedic account of the earthquake and its aftermath. Let’s watch that in action.
  58. “Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia. It is a virtual city, a city whose main export to the world is its encyclopedia articles, but with an internal life of its own.”Friday, January 4, 2013Michael Nielsen
  59. Friday, January 4, 2013But this technology of collective action and man-machine collaboration can be used for immense social good. For example, afterthe devastating earthquake in Haiti last year
  60. Mission 4636Friday, January 4, 2013After the Haiti earthquake a whole set of new tools for cooperation were deployed to coordinate the activities of volunteers. Forexample, the Ushahidi crowd-reporting platform was used to report people in need of rescue via SMS to a special shortcode, thecollaborative OpenStreetMap project was used to quickly map shanty towns so that rescuers could be sent to the right location,and crowd work platforms like Crowdflower, SamaSource and Amazon Mechanical Turk were used to translate reports fromHaitian Creole into English via volunteers in Haitian diaspora communities thousands of miles away. These applications show aman-machine symbiosis including smartphone-wielding humans as sensors, remote processors (translators), and as augmentedactors, guided to the locations where they were needed, and told where to dig.
  61. The Google Autonomous VehicleFriday, January 4, 2013Collective intelligence shows up in unexpected places, such as the Google autonomous vehicle. This car is thought-provokingon a number of levels.
  62. 2005: Seven Miles in Seven HoursFriday, January 4, 2013You see, back in 2005, the car that won the DARPA Grand Challenge went seven miles in seven hours.
  63. 2011: Hundreds of thousands of miles in ordinary trafficFriday, January 4, 2013Yet only six years later, Google announced a robotic car that has driven over a hundred thousand miles in ordinary traffic.
  64. Artificial Intelligence? “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines” -John McCarthy, 1956Friday, January 4, 2013Was this a triumph of artificial intelligence, like IBM’s Watson beating human Jeopardy champions?
  65. “We don’t have better algorithms. We just have more data.” - Peter Norvig, Chief Scientist, GoogleFriday, January 4, 2013It was surely that. But there’s another important factor that is easy to overlook. Google’s former chief scientist, Peter Norvig,says that the algorithms aren’t any better. Google just has more data. What kind of data?
  66. AI plus the recorded memory of augmented humansFriday, January 4, 2013It turns out that the autonomous vehicle is made possible by Google Streetview. Google had human drivers drive all those streetsin cars that were taking pictures, and making very precise measurements of distances to everything. The autonomous vehicle isactually remembering the route that was driven by human drivers at some previous time. That “memory”, as recorded by thecar’s electronic sensors, is stored in the cloud, and helps guide the car. As Peter pointed out to me, “picking a traffic light out ofthe field of view of a video camera is a hard AI problem. Figuring out if it’s red or green when you already know it’s there istrivial.”
  67. The global brain is us, connected and augmentedFriday, January 4, 2013So, in a surprising way, the Google Autonomous Vehicle is another unexpected example of Harnessing Collective Intelligence.It’s another miracle of computer-mediated human cooperation!. This is a thread that runs through all the great inventions ofthe web, from Google itself, Wikipedia, social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are all technologies for harvesting andcoordinating the products of thousands or even millions of minds, increasingly in close to real-time.
  68. Man-Computer Symbiosis “The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.” – Licklider, J.C.R., "Man-Computer Symbiosis", IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, vol. HFE-1, 4-11, Mar 1960. EprintFriday, January 4, 2013JCR Licklider, the legendary DARPA program manager who funded the original development of TCP/IP, wrote about this idea inhis 1960 paper entitled Man-Computer Symbiosis. He wrote:
  69. A few key assertions § We are building a network-mediated global mind § It is us, connected and augmentedFriday, January 4, 2013The google vehicle is only the latest of a long series of developments that show how we are augmenting ourselves andconnecting ourselves into something bigger. We are building a network-mediated global mind. It is not the “skynet” of theTerminator movies. It is us, augmentedThis picture is a routing map of the internet. It’s striking how much it looks like a map of the synapses in a human brain. It’snowhere near as dense yet, but the imagery is suggestive. But there’s a lot more here than just imagery. The global brain is ahuman-computer symbiosis.
  70. Feedback Loops “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I dont know which half.” - John Wanamaker (1838-1922)Friday, January 4, 2013That leads me to the whole topic of feedback loops. It isn’t just that this information is going mind to mind. We are increasinglytaking this information and creating electronic feedback loops, which might include humans in different ways. Increasingly,technology is solving what we advertisers call “the Wanamaker problem” after 19th century department store magnate JohnWanamaker, who said [quote above] What Google did with pay-per-click advertising was to solve the Wanamaker problem, bybuilding a business model that only charged advertisers when consumers clicked on their ads, and harnessing collectiveintelligence to predict which of those ads would be most likely be clicked on.
  71. Friday, January 4, 2013We’re now seeing this same idea spread to other areas of the economy. For example, these kinds of feedback loops enabled bydata are part of what the US government is trying to do in healthcare with Accountable Care Organizations.
  72. “Only 1% of healthcare spend now goes to diagnosis. We need to shift from the idea that you do diagnosis at the start, followed by treatment, to a cycle of diagnosis, treatment, we explore what works.” -Pascale Witz, GE Medical DiagnosticsFriday, January 4, 2013Personalized medicine requires new kinds of diagnostic feedback loops. Pascale Witz of GE Medical Diagnostics explained how
  73. Friday, January 4, 2013In the city of San Francisco, you’re seeing something similar, where all the parking meters are equipped with sensors, andpricing will ultimately vary by time of day, and ultimately by demand. I’m calling these systems of “algorithmic regulation” -they regulate in the same way our body regulates itself, autonomically and unconsciously. All of the technology “smart city”initiatives need to be seen as ways of instrumenting not just the physical city but the social life of the humans who live in it.
  74. Friday, January 4, 2013The idea of the social life of the city as captured by technology becomes clear in this visualization done by Wired Magazine of 24hours of 311 calls from the city of New York, showing what issues citizens are contacting their government about. This samekind of ebb and flow comes increasingly from the data exhaust from our devices.
  75. § sensable city/sense networks/sandy pentlandFriday, January 4, 2013Projects like MIT’s Senseable City Lab are exploring how the data exhaust from millions of network-connected citizens can beused to shape the patterns of cities. We will see more of this in future. It’s an important frontier of man-machine colaboration
  76. Friday, January 4, 2013This shift requires new competencies of companies and governments. The field has increasingly come to be called “DataScience” - extracting meaning and services from data - and as you can see, the set of skills that make up this job description arein high demand according to LinkedIn. They are literally going asymptotic.
  77. The importance of real-time “Would you be willing to cross the street with information that was five minutes old?” -Jeff JonasFriday, January 4, 2013
  78. Intelligence Augmentation “The human mind ... operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature. Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. ... One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage. Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do.” – Vannevar Bush, As We May Think, 1945Friday, January 4, 2013I want to turn to another aspect of man-machine symbiosis, this time in terms of information retrieval. In 1945, Vannevar Bushwrote a famous and influential article called “As We May Think” that in many ways prefigured the ideas of the World Wide Web.
  79. A device that knows where I am better than I do, a knowing assistant telling me where to go and how to get there.Friday, January 4, 2013The current state of the art of this kind of near-miraculous information retrieval can be seen in today’s smartphones. Forexample, a smartphone equipped with mapping software knows exactly where you are. But note that the information beingretrieved is generated by human beings, often through collective activity.
  80. Friday, January 4, 2013Returning to IBM’s Watson, we see that it too is a product of man-machine symbiosis. After all, the documents that it “reads” toperform its feats of apparent intelligence are human documents. In the three seconds it has to come up with a Jeopardyquestion, it has time to read and process the equivalent of 200 million pages. And now that speed of information retrieval isbeing used for more than parlor tricks, as IBM works to train Watson to act as an assistant in healthcare. The average physicianis able to read the latest research in his field perhaps five hours a week; Watson’s ability to read everything and suggestpotentially relevant answers makes it an ideal assistant. “Watson makes suggestions, not decisions,” says IBM’s Dr. Randy Kohn.
  81. Friday, January 4, 2013This is the real opportunity for new information retrieval UIs like Google’s Project Glass - in specialized settings where access toa computer can be seen as a powerful kind of human augmentation. I expect it to be used in professional settings before itbecomes popular as a consumer device. (In social settings, it will require even more profound resets of behavior than the“always-on” mobile phone.)
  82. Friday, January 4, 2013We can already see signs of this in the Apple Store. If you squint a little, you can see the Apple Store clerk as a cyborg. Wheremost stores (at least in America) have used technology to eliminate salespeople, Apple has used it to augment them. Each storeis flooded with smartphone-wielding salespeople who are able to help customers with everything from technical questions topurchase and checkout. Walgreens is experimenting with a similar approach in the pharmacy, and US CTO Todd Park foresees afuture in which health workers will be part of a feedback loop including sensors to track patient data coupled with systems thatalert them when a patient needs to be checked up on. The augmented home health worker will allow relatively unskilled workersto be empowered with the much deeper knowledge held in the cloud.
  83. What does the economy of the future look like?Friday, January 4, 2013This leads me to an interesting question. What does the economy of the future look like?In their book Race Against the Machine, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee make the case that jobs aren’t coming back, aseven low-cost outsourced jobs are being automated. Imagine a future of Google automated vehicles, and you can see newclasses of people out of work - taxi drivers, truck drivers, etc. This is being replicated across huge swaths of the economy.
  84. § Income inequalityFriday, January 4, 2013Yet as Nick Hanauer pointed out in his TEDU talk earlier this year, the economy depends on wide income distribution. Costcutting via robotics may be a capitalist’s wet dream, but that system ultimately breaks down.“Customers create jobs!” Nick says.Without people who have enough money to buy a product or service, no company can succeed, no matter how much capital itraises or how brilliant the ideas of its entrepreneurial developers.
  85. “the Adhocracy”Friday, January 4, 2013In Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow posits a future in which nanotechnology provides prosperity for all, andthe financial economy has been replaced by an “attention economy.” I think that’s fairly utopian, but there’s also a lot of truth init. We *are* heading towards an attention economy. You can already see signs of it on Kickstarter and YouTube.
  86. Friday, January 4, 2013Kickstarter is a great alpha release of Cory’s attention economy, and a giant hack for mapping it onto the financial economy:“Do you care enough about my project to fund it? Can you help me bring it into reality?”
  87. Friday, January 4, 2013There are also some really interesting lessons from YouTube, which I think may actually be closer to coming up to a nativebusiness model for social media and the attention economy than Facebook or Twitter.A huge amount of what happens on YouTube is what Yochai Benkler calls “peer production.”For example, my three year-old grandson loves to watch Thomas the Tank Engine train crash videos made by other kids.This one has nearly 24 million views. Not bad for an amateur production.
  88. Friday, January 4, 2013So I went down to Vidcon, which is the gathering place of the Youtube creator community, and it was like going back to the earlydays of the Beatles! Literally thousands of screaming kids as various YouTube stars came out on stage! The attention economyis live and well on YouTube.
  89. Friday, January 4, 2013Here’s the line of screaming fans waiting to get autographs from 20-something British YouTube star Charlie McDonnell.Vidcon was crawling with agents who used to be focused purely on Hollywood talent.
  90. Friday, January 4, 2013But what’s really important and interesting is the business model. You may not know that when a viral video gets uploadedthat uses copyrighted music, instead of taking it down, Google runs ads against it, and forwards the revenue to themusic publisher. You can see the result of the ContentID match on the lower right.What blew my mind though is that I heard one story about a major pop star who makes more money on YouTubethan on iTunes, and more than half of that comes from “unofficial” videos that use her music as a soundtrack,rather than from her own official tracks.
  91. The Clothesline Paradox If you put your clothes in the dryer, the energy you use is measured and counted, but if you hang them on the clothesline to be dried by the sun, the energy saved disappears from our accounting!Friday, January 4, 2013I refer to these kind of sharing economies as “clothesline paradox economies.” I remembered this great piece about alternativeenergy that I read back in 1975 inThe CoEvolution Quarterly, Stewart Brand’s successor to The Whole Earth Catalog. It’s called The Clothesline Paradox,and it made the point that ... It struck me that open source is a lot like sunshine. It disappears from our economicaccounting.But in fact, these sharing economies produce value that crops out in unexpected ways.
  92. Friday, January 4, 2013Lisa Gansky’s site The Mesh documents almost 7000 companies exploring variants of the sharing economy.I think that one of the big near-term future areas for economic exploration and thinking is going to be about peer productionand its interaction with the financial economy. Maybe eventually we’ll transition over to the full attention economy as forecast inCory Doctorow’s book, but that’s further out than I can see.None of us can really predict the future. We can just see things in the present that others haven’t noticed yet, that tell ussomething about how the future is unfolding.
  93. Friday, January 4, 2013And the economics isn’t really the point. I recently met Rodney Mullen, one of the fathersof street skating. He has this wonderful TEDx talk in which he talks about the skating community, and how its membersgive to each other.He talks about how fame and money lose their allure. He quotes Richard Feynman saying"The Nobel Prize is the tombstone of all great work," and relates it to his own career as a skater,having won all possible awards, built a successful business. He goes on to say... [next slide]
  94. "theres an intrinsic value to creating something for the sake of creating it… "there is this beauty in dropping it into a community of your own making and seeing it dispersed and seeing younger talent take it to levels you could never imagine, because that lives on" -Rodney MullenFriday, January 4, 2013
  95. “Reality is an activity of the most august imagination” - Wallace StevensFriday, January 4, 2013Remember what I said earlier?