Program for the Future: Day 1

On the day celebrating the birth of the modern personal computer (summarized by main stream media as the invention of the computer mouse), i blogged from the seat next to Doug. I’m still digesting my thoughts from those two great days.


The prettiest girl in school doesn’t get asked to dance – all the boys are intimidated. Amazingly, at today’s event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Mother of all Demos’s, the chair next to the guest of honor was empty just as the program was getting under way. So I’m thrilled to be blogging this sitting next to my hero, Doug Engelbart.

We’re at the The Tech, listening to a roster of brilliant speakers on topics related to Doug’s 1968 demo as well as, more generally, the status and future of Collective Intelligence.

Go here for the Twitter feed for the event

Other blog coverage of this event includes (post a comment if I’ve missed you):

8:15 AM Hiroshi Ishii, Joel Orr and Douglas and Karen Engelbart

Welcome to the summit on Collective Intelligence

How can individuals participate in integrating Collective Intelligence into their studies, business, or art in order to achieve beneficial results that exceed the expected output?

8:30 AM Sam Hahn – Master of Ceremonies

8:40 AM Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google

Walkthrough the Collective Intelligence Mural and Timeline

Where are we? How did we get here? Where are we going? Understand the connected revolution through a graphical timeline. Learn how visualizing time provides insight into things that have happened and things to come.

9:05 AM Claudia Brenner and Valerie Landau, Timeline Mural Interaction



9:35 AM Thomas Malone, Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence

The Landscape of Collective Intelligence

A central question for whole field of collective intelligence is “How can people and computers be connected so that – collectively – they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups or computers have ever done before?” This talk will describe some early answers to this question in business, science, and other areas.

Tom Malone

Tom Malone

[PSM] Tom Malone (founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence) covered some of the classic examples of current collective intelligence successes (his presentation is online here, emphasizing Google (linking web pages and harvesting the structure), and defined CI as “groups of individuals doing things collectively that seem intelligent”). I emphatically agree with him when he says “how can people and computers be connected so that collectively they act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer has ever done before?”.

10:15 AM BREAK – harvesting your questions for Norvig and Malone

10:30 AM Hiroshi Ishii Associate Director of the MIT Media Lab, Head of the Tangible Media Group

The Art of Tangible Bits – Inspired by Engelbart’s Vision

Today’s technologies will become obsolete in one year, and today’s applications will be replaced in 10 years, but true visions – we believe – can last longer than 100 years. Tangible Bits is our vision-driven research that aims at 2200, and it was inspired by Engelbart’s grand vision demonstrated in 1968.

G-Speak Operating Environment

g-speak Spatial Operating Environment

[PSM} Hiroshi Ishii of the MIT Tangible Media group, showed a number of really cool videos showing both artistic and highly practical new thoughts on tangible user interfaces. Among them, Oblong’s g-speak Spatial Operating Environment – which you might recognize from Spielberg’s Minority Report (John Underkoffler, a co-founder, was a scientific advisor on the movie). Art imitates life imitates art.

Hiroshi’s presentation is available here.

10:50 AM Q&A PANEL: Norvig, Malone, Ishii facilitated by Nicole Boyer

Dark Corridors of Trantor

Dark Corridors of Trantor

[PSM] Tom notes that today, the future is much more distributed than in the past – he reminiscences writing a letter to his grandmother from Xerox PARC in 1979 complete with fonts, typeset text, and images; today, instead of concentrated in a single building, it’s happening around the world and in start-up garages. (Of course, there might still be a new building somewhere with the actual future that we haven’t heard of yet.) And he notes as closing comment to the Q & A that instead of as in Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, where a team of geniuses navigated the future, we can all be a part of it.

Tom’s presentation is available here.

11:15 AM Larry Johnson, CEO; Alan Levine, VP Community & CTO, and Rachel Smith, VP NMC Services – executive team of the New Media Consortium

The Story of the New Media Consortium – a networked improvement community inspired by Engelbart

11:35 AM Ideas for the Future (Part 1) – Nicole Boyer and Chris Bui

Which problems are ripe for solution? What isn’t getting enough attention? We will harness the collective intelligence of participants to identify areas of focus that show the most promise.

[PSM] Each table was to find what single thing would they be most passionate about to move collective intelligence forward. At our table, Bill English proposed making sure that the political systems (the powers-that-be) don’t limit the formation and growth of collective intelligence systems; Paul Resnick proposed finding the collective commentary on any item or situation (such as an actual book in a bookstore, or being at a train station and wanting to get to The Tech); Tom Malone is increasingly intrigued by the concept of a global brain (Gaia wants a new Brain?); and yours truly proposed finding the counterpoint to any statement (e.g. when faced with the statement “Obama is not a US citizen”, what are the best counterpoints?).

12:00 PM Box lunch

[PSM] During lunch, all the kind-of-consensus ideas were gathered for voting. When I look at the proposals shown everybody on the big screen (about 20 or 30), the following concepts strike me as most important:

  • Facilitating the aggregation of time and energy on problems that really matter to us.
  • Dissent needs to be encouraged and supported.
  • We need to resist governmental restrictions on emerging collective intelligences.
  • Incorporate actual science on how groups work.
  • CI has exciting potential for lifelong learning.

12:30 PM William Mark, Vice President, SRI, Information and Computing Sciences Division SRI

Innovation inspired by Engelbart

[PSM] William Mark points out that in the legendary demonstration, the system per se wasn’t learning anything, or adapting in any way, on it’s own.

1:00 PM Professor Paul Resnick, University of Michigan School of Information
Reputation Systems & Collective Intelligence

The incentives to manipulate our collective intelligence systems grow as we rely on them more. Influence limits based on reputations can help, but there are inherent limits on our ability to aggregate distributed information when some of it may be fake.

Miserable Failure

Miserable Failure

[PSM] Paul Resnick sounds a cautionary theme, in particular the limitations of reputation systems in the face of manipulation. Paul covers some of the experiences from Google “miserable failure”, the Ataturk Time Magazine poll, LA Times coverage of Digg “McCain bury brigade”, the official Diggers4Obama, and professional subverters like and Subvert and Profit. Paul has written a bit about this that’s worth a read.

A very interesting audience question was what would the reputation equivalent to Arrow’s impossibility theorem.

1:30 PM Interaction – Ideas for the Future (Part 2) – Nicole Boyer and Chris Bui

2:00 PM – Peter Friess
CEO of The Tech Museum of Innovaiton presents
Program for The Future: The Collective Intelligence Challenge

Frode Hegland of Hyperwords and
Veera Swaminathan of National University of Singapore
will be introduced by Steve Wozniak Co-founder of Apple

Presented by The Tech Museum and the MIT Museum. Introduction to Program for the Future 2009 competition. Learn the overall goals of the competition and how to participate.

[PSM] Wozniak captured the crowd; he is really a living example of how enthusiasm and love of having fun is such a core of both innovation and collaboration. And Second Life in the background nicely emphasizes how interfaces like SL are more of a distraction than a useful tool, but that’s just me (others seem to think it’s cool; me, I have yet to have to ever go to SL to find the answer to anything).

2:30 PM Open Forum discussion, Q&A, Open Mic, and networking

Facilitated by Bob Ketner, MC

Geeks Bearing Gifts

Geeks Bearing Gifts

[PSM] First caller was Ted Nelson, who skyped in with some wise works. Ted has an upcoming book – Geeks Bearing Gifts: How the computer world got this way. I can’t find it on Amazon pre-order yet, but it sounds like a must-read.

3:00 PM Special Group Tour: “Leonardo: 500 Years into the Future”

Led by Peter Friess, President of The Tech, and David Whitman, Leonardo Exhibition Organizer

A custom tour of the largest Leonardo exhibition to visit North America, for inspiration on new ways to overcome the challenges to collective intelligence. Networking in the exhibition lobby.



[PSM] Ok so this is a HORRIBLE picture, but I wanted to capture as a personal memento myself sitting next to one of my heroes and inspirations in life, throughout a full day of events celebrating him.


  1. Time has an odd way of concatenating unrelated ideas, just yesterday I was cleaning out my inbox and hit a mail containing a link to the Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Jaw-dropping Photosynth demo at TED ( which uses spatial correlation to build 3d models from flikr images. Somehow that seems to tie in to the morning agenda above.



  1. Mural: “Co-Evolution of Human Systems and Tool Systems” « 100 Trillion Connections

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: