Friday 28 May 2010

Privacy - Facebook shows future

The recent furore in some camps over privacy issues on Facebook is unsurprising in some ways, but indicative of the future trend and key new ways that people will need to adapt in how they behave with new technology, how they select providers of services, and how they take responsibility for sharing information online. The future world will be alive with information-passing mechanisms, be they sensors, online servers, databases, or other devices. It isn't a case of trying to ban things, nor to over-regulate so that the benefits are restricted and innovation inhibited, but rather that people learn how to act and make sensible choices, just as humans have historically done in other technology areas.

Firstly, in the same way that most people have learnt what is acceptable in terms of using their mobile phone in a meeting for example, they will learn how to behave with devices that are either giving out information about them or managing information sharing on their behalf. Secondly, in the same way that many people choose suppliers of services based on reputation and sound ethical principles etc, they will learn to choose online providers with similar criteria, possibly with the help of light regulation which makes sure relevant criteria is available. Thirdly, in the same way that people are learning how to take responsibility for monitoring their offspring's use of the Internet, they will learn how to take responsibility for what information they choose to make available about themselves and to whom. They already do this in other areas (most people are pretty clear about who they would give their private bank details to and who they wouldn't) and will learn to do this more generally.

The mechanisms will be in place in the future to allow people to control the inevitable increase in information gathering, sharing and socialising. It will just take time for people to learn that they should (and how to) use them. Facebook's recent issues have simply demonstrated a very small, early step in this education process.

Friday 21 May 2010

Artificial life...

The Venter institute in the USA has succeeded in transplanting synthetic DNA into a host cell to create the most primitive artificial life. This has drawn the usual criticism of how much danger this potentially brings when any advance of this type is made. The ethical debates will go on, and the regulations will be reviewed.

But in the end this is going to be commonplace in the future. We will come to rely on organisms that are man-made to do all sorts of clever and desirable things. These could include providing useful fuels or vaccines. Of course there are risks that bad artificial bacteria will escape in the wild either accidentally or due to war/terrorism. But there are risks associated with many other things humans do ... we had the same debates about nuclear power generation for example. But these advances won't be halted. We will all benefit from them in the fullness of time. And yes the debates will go on. I hope the good results of this work will quickly be commercialised into solutions for some of the big problems the world faces. It's just a case of how long this will take.

Saturday 15 May 2010

CILIP 2010 conference, Wales

Just back from Llandrindod Wells in mid-Wales where I was pleased to be invited to give a keynote speech on the second day of the CILIP conference. I covered many technologies in my talk but part of one was about the disruptive revolution (or not) of social media and service provision and experience. It was great to be speaking to an audience many of whom were simultaneously using social networking tools such as Twitter to take the messages further afield. Currently this use is mainly communicative, however in the future it will become more important in service provision and delivery. Thanks to the audience for listening (should they be reading this blog) and especially those who were tweeting during and afterwards. I'm always pleased when technology is demonstrated rather than simply talked about!

Sunday 9 May 2010

3D Television arrives...

After a busy time here, I again find time to blog ... and this time about the advent of a 3D TV set in the UK. Samsung have taken the plunge with their UE46C7000 model using the active 3D arrangement where the glasses do some of the work. Like all early technology, it doesn't come cheap at the moment and I don't feel like wearing glasses just to watch TV. Although quite a few models will be prevalent in the stores in late 2010 and 2011, it will be much longer before the systems that do not require any glasses to be worn leave the lab and demo suites and become mainstream, though personally I will wait for them. Meanwhile Toshiba will use their cell processor to upgrade 2D to 3D in their offerings later this year, Philips will offer 3D as a plug-in addition to their 9000 series and Panasonic's TX-P50VT20B will be a plasma 3D TV entrant. For the early adopter, these will provide some choice in the marketplace.

As I have said here before, there isn't going to be too much content produced in true 3D for some time, and the marketplace probably needs to adopt HD first before worrying about 3D too. The earliest 3D HD TVs will at least have greater brightness pictures meantime since the 3D glasses needed block out some light from each eye and the active shutter glasses also make the picture appear darker ... so the sets produce brighter pictures to begin with to compensate which also results in brighter 2D HD content too.

So I wouldn't get too excited about 3D TV yet, but in the future, as with our more general computing devices, the experience will become much more immersive in all sorts of ways ... three dimensions is just one of them!