Category Archives: innovation

The ‘Person of Interest’ Machine – The Air Force wants it!

If you are fan of spy-ish adventure show, you have probably given CBS “Person of Interest” a gander. If not, its decent to pretty good, depending on the episode. On my DVR list. The premise is that a reclusive Billionarie tech wizard known only as “Finch” (Played by Lost’s Benjimin Linus – actor Micheal Emerson)buidls a ‘machine’ for the government that integrates all forms of surveillence across the country with breakthrough artificial intelligence to identify “Persons of Interest” – people who are highly probable to be perpetrators or victims based on their activities. Disturbed that the government was going to only act on output from “the Machine” that had national security implications, our genius put a back door in teh machine that sent him the social security numbers of the highest liklihood “persons of interest”.

Enlisting former CIA operative Reese (the show likes singular names…played by Jim Caveizal) as his invetigator/action officer, each episode follows the formula of getting a name, figuring out if they are a good guy or bad guy, and either protecting them or bringing them to justice (sometimes “with extreme prejudice”…).

The lead ins from each commecial break show “the machine eye view” of the world with reticles tacking faces and text of conversations, texts and if close enough lip reading on the screen. This somewhat dystopian segue adds an interesting context to plot that hashes out.

Enter the Air Force. I’m not sure what it is about the Air Force culture, but they have a penchant for thinking technology can cure every ill. Suffering a rather bloddy rebuke from a Marine General at JFCOM regarding their darling “Effects-based warfare” a few years back, they seem to believe that the problem of not being able to know what it is the bad guys are going to do means they just have to create a technology that can tell them beforehand what the bad guys are going to do. Bouyed by snake-oil salesman touting “predictive intelligence”, the Air Force has dabbled for years with notions of how such a capability would return their Newtonian Effects-based warfare ideas to primacy in a world where “what happens next” is stuck inside peoples heads.

This piece in Wired’s Danger Room discusses the desire of the chief Scientist of the Air Force to create Finch’s Machine. At least in part. calling it “Social Radar” he talks about it “seeing into the hearts and miinds of people”.

Does he really mean it? Is he serioously proposing a mind-reading machine? Appears so. “Don’t just give me a weather forecast, Air Force, give me an enemy movement forecast.’ What’s that about? That’s human behavior. And so [we need to] understand what motivates individuals, how they behave.”

And if you question if the vision really rivals the scale and pervasiveness of Finch’s Person of Interest Machine. Dr. Maybury describes his “Machine” thus:

Using biometrics, Social Radar will identify individuals, Maybury noted in his original 2010 paper on the topic for the government-funded MITRE Corporation. Using sociometrics, it will pinpoint groups. Facebook timelines, political polls, spy drone feeds, relief workers’ reports, and infectious disease alerts should all pour into the Social Radar, Maybury writes, helping the system keep tabs on everything from carbon monoxide levels to literacy rates to consumer prices. And “just as radar needs to overcome interference, camouflage, spoofing and other occlusion, so too Social Radar needs to overcome denied access, censorship, and deception,” he writes.

The paper opines that radar “provided a superhuman ability to see objects at a distance through the air., and connects the dots to the need for a new superhuman capability:

“Accordingly, a social radar needs to be not only sensitive to private and public cognitions and the amplifying effect of human emotions but also sensitive to cultural values as they can drive or shape behavior.”

Goig further:

For example, radar or sonar enable some degree of forecasting by tracking spatial and temporal patterns (e.g. they track and display how military objects or weather phenomena move in what clusters, in which direction(s) and at what speed.) A user can thus project where and when objects will be in the future. Similarly, a social radar should enable us to forecast who will cluster with whom in a network, where, and when in what kinds of relationships.

You can read the entire paper here

Of course, I’m sure it will filter out such information about U.S. citizens, and will only act on it in dire circumstances of national security. That dad gum Constitution and all..

We can only hope that the rest of the info is only available the altruistic likes of Finch and Reese…

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The day after the SOPA blackouts…what did it accomplish?

Several itmes: Time Magazine the Seattle Times and ABC News have interesting takes on the anti-SPA blackout. Time reports that before the the blackout 5 Senators were on record against the bill, and now one source it is now 19 with 7 more “leaning no” in the Senate. To find key remaining supporters…follow the money: of the 19 Senators that received over 75K from Hollywood and the Music Industry, 13 are supporters, and only 1 Roy Blunt (R-MO), is on the record firmly against.

Interestingly, Silicon Valley money does not seem to carry the same weight, as the 16 Senators with over 75K in Silicon valley money, only 2 are firm “No’s”, though 7 in that category saw Hollywood outspending Silicon Valley, with a “yes” resulting…outspending your competition seems to work 😉 The group “Fight for the Future” claims the Senate ‘No’s’ have increased to 35 no, but that seems to be a single, biased, source. Total donations to the Senate by Hollywood/Big Music were 5.6M$ (Big winner Barbera Boxer (D-CA with a whopping 571K$) while Silicon Valley gave 4.2M$ (Big winner Patty Murray (D-Micro$oft…errrrr WA) with 363K$ – note Barbera Boxer was 2nd with 348k$)

The House is far more hostile, with only 27 on the record for, and now 83 opposing. Of the 15 House Members with over 75K in Hollywood and Music Industry Money, only 6 supporters remain. Only 7 received over 75K from silicon valley, 5 are nos, and none of those 7 were outspent by Hollywood/Music interests. 7.9M$ was donated to House members by Hollywood/Big Music (Big winner Howard Berman (D-CA) with 286K), 6.5$ by Silicon Valley (Big winner Anna Eshoo (D-CA) with 163K).

The Administration has weighed in threatened to oppose legislation that contains language that would make it easier for the government to censor the web or make the internet less secure, but not saying it considered either SOPA or PIP contained such language. Opponents say it’s obviously implied, but there is a ton of re-election money at stake that Obama does not want to put at risk with a clear answer.

The opposition seems to be remarkably non-partisan with groups ranging from the expected host of conservative and libertarian groups to Moveon.org taking their sites down in protest. Google had

The “rest of the story” however, is where the interesting innovation is taking place.

The neatest thing that has come out of all this is that the rival legislation to SOPA/PIP – the OPEN act – has been used to debut an alternative to the library of Congress’ legislation publication site “Thomas”, dubbed informally by its users “Madison” here. Rather than Thomas’ bare bones search engine that often returns a confusing array of bill versions, both with and without pending amendments, Madison employs real-time mark-up as proposals for changes and amendments are passed – INCLUDING the ability to show those recommended by the public. – It’s a Thomas meets Wikipedia and Twitter experiment in participatory democracy. The site tracks amendments proposed, passed, and failed along with video clips of proceedings. It has a LOT of room for improvement, tracability and filtering of comments, more comprehensive video archives cross-indexed to amendments. Compared to the sterile and confusing “if you are not a poliwonk have fun slogging” that is Thomas…(my search on ‘SOPA’ – resulted in “no items found” – you need the HR/SR number just to get started…) it is a potential “game-changer” for how individuals can observe and if desired PARTICIPATE in the sausage-making of bill -crafting.

Is opening the door in this way fraught with peril? Are we not after all a Republic, and not a direct Democracy for good reasons? Can’t the Hollywood and Music shills exploit this to get language they want into bills? Yes. But the current system has that happen behind closed doors enabled by access largely granted by campaign donations. In my mind, anything that moves that out into the light of day, where anybody can see it, is better.

5 Disruptive Technologies “Happening NOW”

This MIT Tech Review article opines that the e-book reader, the 3d printer, digital closed circuit TV, the new generation of gene sequencing machines (In two hours for $1000, and interactive computer technology (IBM’s Watson on the high and and Apples Siri on the low) are examples of technology that are disrupting if not outright destroying large market players.

This Blog Is a great place for info on disruptive technology.

Honey, If you loved me, you’d know what I wanted…

This CNET opinion piece discusses the naturally iterative relationship between high tech gadgets and their users. There are (pretty funny) jokes about how cars would work (or not) if GM treated cars like M$ treated computers, but these miss the point that unlike cars, electronic devices can change after you buy them. Software is becoming increasingly behaviorally complex and not just “complicated” it’s becoming impossible to predetermine the results of every interaction the user can have with the device. We demand that we can buy new stuff and load it on our computers and it will work. We don’t expect that of mechanical devices, which, by definition are “simply” complicated (its impossible for a car to operate differently after you change the oil or buy new tires). Buy a new operating system for you computer and you have a fundamentally different device than you had before.

With embedded computer in more and more tech gear, this ability to offer new functionality through software and firmware upgrades blurs the line between the mechanically simple and the behaviorally complex. Product producers can add new features and adapt existing ones to customer preferences. This is a far cry from Ford offering “any color you want, as long as its black.”

Getting the “user experience” right from the get go requires the same sort of psychic powers as the title lament…we can be mad about it, or we can communicate and improve the gadget/customer relationship..

Disruptive Innovation – Goliath turning the tables on the Davids

This MIT Tech Review article talks about how large corporations are increasingly employing ‘disruptive innovation’ themselves in the fight for corporate survival, at times pitting internal sectors and units against each other.

I’ll be posting about some of the innovation research I’ve been doing over the next few weeks, using this blog to catalog and discuss some of the papers I’ve found, and document a game development project based on them.

There is a wide range of variation in the innovation literature, and rather free-wheeling set of definitions of what “innovation” is and what different adjectives in front of that mean. “Disruptive Innovation” is one of the poster children for this, with a wide range of definitions. The one used in this piece “making the complicated simple, making the expensive affordable, driving growth by transforming what exists and creating what doesn’t” is not exactly helpful. The more traditional definition is one of an innovation that creates a new market, or marketing strategy. In any case, regardless the definition, the article makes some important points about the role reversal going on in several industries as strategies that a few years ago, in the heyday of ‘consumer-driven’ market strategies would be anathema, are embraced today in the spirit of ‘if you build it, they will come”. Steve Jobs was one of the first to buck the “customer driven market” philosophy, famously saying that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Much of this seems to be less about “externally” disruptive innovation in the sense of Christensen in The Innovator’s Solution (creating new markets, or servicing under-valued customers) than about “internally” disruptive innovation related to shifting from a product-based strategies to service-based strategies, by traditionally product-based companies. IBM has been one of the most successful examples of this. Ultimately though, this article ends much as it began, with a vague definition of disruptive innovation leading to John Madden-esque revelations akin to

Pushing beyond core competencies. “Give up old ideas if you want new ideas” check…

Embrace business model innovation. “Do something new, to get something new”. Yes…

Manage the old and new differently. “Gee raising a kid is different from maintaining a marriage” Shocking…

“The evidence suggests that incumbents are waking up and recognizing that they can’t cede markets to new entrants”. Yes, and as Madden would say, “its hard to win if you don’t score more points than the other guy”…

Reading your horoscope can give keener insight! Come on innovation mavens! When are we going to get beyond “The key to innovation is being open to change” and “successful innovations attract more customers than unsuccessful ones.”