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The times, they are a changin'
Sunday, November 07, 2004

Accelerating Change meta-themes: How do we use technology to rapidly and humanely improve our world? Where does the world need to be changed, and what do we need to protect in the process?

Things kicked off with food, networking, and demo's at SAP Lab's R&D facility.

Saturday and Sunday packed so many great presentations that I cannot even consider documenting Accelerating Change 2004 in my usual fashion. I'll make a few top-of-trees observations this evening, and post details of particularly hot sessions over the next couple of weeks.

Shai Agassi, a member of the Executive Board of SAP, is an awesome software visionary. His description of how enterprise software will evolve dovetails perfectly with the Workflow Institute's thinking and research.

SAP provides snapshots of the entire corporation, bringing the time to develop the picture from years to months to days to minutes to milliseconds. The next challenge is TIME TO CHANGE. SAP has gone to other levels: Product Lifecycles (which are impossible to differentiate for long unless, like Apple buying up all the mini-drives for iPods). Change Management is the new game in town. The case for change from Geoff Moore. Consider airline check-in process.

The Vegas airport has check-in machines that spit out boarding passes for all airlines. The normal cycle:

Wired Tiired Retired
Services Platform Database File System
Event Centricity* Transaction Batch
Devices (think RFID) Clerks Not knowing
Exception handlers MRP Planners
Mobility (think Blackberry)** Desktop Terminal
Modeling Off-shoring Coding
Domain Specific Lang Java COBOL
Autonomous Systems System integration IT management
Grid Server Farm Mainframe
Office*** Office Office

IBM's Jim Spohrer gave us the why and how of a new discipline, Service Science. Services are the main deal at IBM, at GE, in the US , worldwide. The largest labor force migration in human history is underway , driven by urbanization, global communications, low cost labor, business and technology innovation. Services are by definition co-production . It takes two to tango. Solow: health, wealth, and wisdom drive service innovation.

Cory Ondrejka told us "Meatspace is over." . The inevitable migration of community and productions into the digital world. The Metaverse. Modeled on the real world; created, evolved… Second Life isn't so much a game as a digital environment, playground, and workspace. Players are creating game objects and what-not within the game. In fact, some are making a living doing this.

Second Life: hottest new memes of the event.

Chris Allen told me about his two cousins who devote each summer to amassing points and prestige in the season's favorite competitive game. They sell their game accomplishments on eBay. Manipulating bits is paying their way through college!

Gordon Bell described MyLifeBits, a Microsoft project for which he is the guinea pig. The goal is to digitize Gordon's life: books and papers, home movies, work papers, photos, recordings, the whole shooting match. I would like to get my hands on the software for captioning photos and clicking in metadata. I don't understand why anyone would document everything. Does Microsoft not know of the 80/20 rule? Gordon is an amazing guy: creator of the DEC VAX and more. I thanked him for his great book on High Tech Ventures, part of my introduction to Silicon Valley thinking.

Jokes about "death by PowerPoint" aside, journalist Dana Blankenthorn was the only presenter who did not use PowerPoint.

This morning I had a chat with Wil Wright. Wil is creator of Sim City and the Sims; he is a staggeringly brilliant guy. We talked about using a Sims-like environment for sales training. Wil had previously set up a business practice which sold to Chevron, the U.S. Health Service, and a few others. The economics didn't work. Every Maxis project is a one-off. The business market is totally different from the entertainment market. Half of Maxis's products fail; the others catch fire. A $5,000,000 marketing budget becomes a drop in the bucket for a successful entertainment title. In business, you have to sell and sell again. I still feel there's opportunity to exploit the amazingly cool, new-fangled game software in service of training but the training industry is so radically different from the entertainment industry that I don't think it will happen under one roof, at least not Maxis's roof. Wil gave an awesome presentation on the "possiblity space." Here are a couple of his slides. More will follow.

At this point I had my first ride on a Segway. The fellow after me had a minor collision. The first speaker had been Helen Greiner, co-founder and Chairman of iRobot. They make the Roomba, a self-controlled vacuum clearner that looks a bit like a giant gray plastic frizbee. The Segway careened into a Roomba. Tried to roll over it. The Segway backed off; someone pushed the Roomba in a different direction; a Battlebots Death Match was averted.

Brad Templeton (EFF) says, "A watched population never boils," i.e. people rarely misbehave in public. However, the natural tendency of aristocrats is to support feudalism.

David Brin favors a Transparent Society but acknowledges that he has "no issue with protecting yourself in the age of John Ashcroft.

Richard Marks leads a SONY team that does R&D for developers of the PlayStation. The ultimate interface should be fun, intuitive, interactive, flexible, enabling, FUN! He showed us some jaw-dropping demos. Instead of air guitar, you play air-handball, challenged by the ball bouncing around on screen; you move, your avatar moves. Cheap. Intuitive. Incredible.

Investment advisor John Mauldin presented his thoughts on the inevitability of the business cycle, secular bear markets, and human psychology. Great advice: "If someone tells you, 'This time it's different,' run don't walk away from them." My distillation of all of John's charts and words and graphs is this: Buy low and Sell high.

Zack Rosen, a walking convergence of political savvy and Open Source, came to the session on Social Software with a Mac -- and no video adaptor. The room had wi-fi. Zack emailed me his presentation and gave it from my ThinkPad. Thank goodness our world is finally becoming interoperable.

A conversation between Jaron Lanier and Wil Wright closed the conference. Wil prefers looking at Jupiter through his home telescope rather than Hubble images, "bacause he likes knowing that the photons from Jupiter are hitting his eyeball. Jaron: "Bits don't mean anything."


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