Tag archives for Google

Breaking News: Jaron Lanier Called to the Witness Stand in London to Discuss the Future of Hip-Hop Music

Tomorrow, Google is sponsoring a debate in London called “Hip-Hop on Trial” to consider the proposition that “Hip-Hop Doesn’t Enhance Society, It Degrades It.” The event will be streaming live on YouTube from 7-830 pm GMT+1 (1-2:30 pm EST) on June 26th.

Why is the Prevail Project interested in what promises to be a loud-spoken affair? (Jesse Jackson + Touré + KRS-One = loud-spoken) Because Jaron Lanier will take the witness stand!

That’s right. Jaron Lanier, champion of the Prevail Scenario and owner-operator of one of the largest collections of ancient music instruments in the world, will be called to the stand – literally – as a witness. For the prosecution or the defense? The press releases do not say; we will have to watch and listen for ourselves. My guess is that Lanier will share many of the same sentiments as The Roots drummer ?uestlove, and legendary producer-lyricist Q-Tip: hip-hop is culture, this culture is complex and complicated, and hip-hop “mos-definitely” has a bright future.

The Google event was sparked, in part, by the role of hip-hop in spreading the protest sentiments of citizens in Egypt and Tunisia. In February 2011 when NPR covered “The Songs of the Egyptian Protests”, hip-hop was a prominent feature of the protest fuel.

In January 2012, the New York Times covered a wider swath of revolutionary hip-hop in a piece titled “The Mixtape of the Revolution.” Hip-hop’s influence in the Arab Spring extends from Libya to Algeria, “from Guinea to Djibouti.”

One of those rappers, El Général, will take the stand Tuesday in London.

Hip hop is often recognized in English departments as the embodiment and progression of the personal essay form, sharing affinities with the best of American poetry from Walt Whitman to Bob Dylan.
As an avid hip-hop fan, the idea that hip-hop in toto “degrades society” is the sort of patently absurd claim that only a lawyer’s guild would make. The question in my mind is not about which side of the isle will win the case, but rather which hip-hop artists Jaron Lanier finds inspirational.

In an age when hip-hop records tend to be tightly controlled by major record labels, perhaps Lanier appreciates the initiative shown by Ghana’s Blitz the Ambassador, who managed to reach the top 10 most downloaded list on iTunes, for a brief spell, without a record deal? Perhaps Lanier fancies the futuristic strain of hip-hop, exemplified by Deltron’s 3030, with Dan the Automator’s vintage lo-fidelity soundscapes?

Tune in to find out, and share in the discussion online at the Google+ YouTube site. Tell them the Prevail Project sent you!

Google the World

Google achieved dominance in the search engine market through a simple algorithm, PageRank, that made it easy for people to find information in an increasingly complex and deep internet. I remember the early days of the web, and compared to Altavista, Ask Jeeves, and Yahoo! Search, Google’s ability to track down what I was thinking of seemed like magic. These days, Google has morphed from a Silicon Valley start-up into a behemoth, clashing with the other titans of computation for our clicks and devices. But if there’s anything that sets Google apart, it’s its willingness to bet on the long-shots, and on the transformation research. This New York Times piece goes inside Google X, where they’re developing driverless cars, space elevators, and the internet of things.

“Other ideas involve what Google referred to as the “Web of things” at its software developers conference in May — a way of connecting objects to the Internet. Every time anyone uses the Web, it benefits Google, the company argued, so it could be good for Google if home accessories and wearable objects, not just computers, were connected.

Among the items that could be connected: a garden planter (so it could be watered from afar); a coffee pot (so it could be set to brew remotely); or a light bulb (so it could be turned off remotely). Google said in May that by the end of this year another team planned to introduce a Web-connected light bulb that could communicate wirelessly with Android devices.

One Google engineer familiar with Google X said it was run as mysteriously as the C.I.A. — with two offices, a nondescript one for logistics, on the company’s Mountain View campus, and one for robots, in a secret location.”

Freaky. Awesome. The last well-known corporate Skunk Works was Xerox PARC, which invented the graphical user interface and the mouse. It took Steve Jobs to see these ideas through to commercialization, put Xerox laid the foundation for computers that anybody could use.  It’s still far to early to see what the social implications of Internet of Things and common-place robotics will be, but it’s sure to be interesting.

 

The Lanier Effect

You’re probably familiar with Jaron Lanier. VR pioneer, musician, author of You Are Not a Gadget and far too many articles to mention. He’s also the inspiration for the Prevail Scenario in Radical Evolution, and the Prevail Project in general. And more recently, he has an hour long interview over at edge.org.

The interview and transcript is far too complex to be summarized here, but Jaron attempts to get at this very basic question: if the internet was supposed to connect people, get them access to information and the levers of power, and make the world better, why do people feel less secure and less wealthy today? It’s because we’re giving up our data, our decisions, and our integrity in the name of efficiency and internet fame, without asking if those are durable goods.

What you have now is a system in which the Internet user becomes the product that is being sold to others, and what the product is, is the ability to be manipulated. It’s an anti-liberty system, and I know that the rhetoric around it is very contrary to that. “Oh, no, there are useful ads, and it’s increasing your choice space”, and all that, but if you look at the kinds of ads that make the most money, they are tawdry, and if you look at what’s happening to wealth distribution, the middle is going away, and just empirically, these ideals haven’t delivered in actuality. I think the darker interpretation is the one that has more empirical evidence behind it at this point…

And so when all you can expect is free stuff, you don’t respect it, it doesn’t offer you enough to give you a social contract. What you can seek on the Internet is you can seek some fine things, you can seek friendship and connection, you can seek reputation and all these things that are always talked about, you just can’t seek cash. And it tends to create a lot of vandalism and mob-like behavior. That’s what happens in the real world when people feel hopeless, and don’t feel that they’re getting enough from society. It happens online.

What does Jaron see as the way out? Well, you’ll have to read the article to find out.

Silicon Valley: Hackers, hucksters, and the hopeful

Two articles in the business news caught my eye recently, providing very different takes on entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.

From Business Insider, Google’s Larry Page Does Exactly the Right Thing: Says ‘Whatever’ to Wall Street. “In some people’s minds, Google’s Larry Page just committed the cardinal sin: He offended Wall Street. Wall Street has reacted to the first quarter in the Page regime by tossing the stock overboard. Larry Page is spending way too much, Wall Street says. Larry Page isn’t communicating well enough. Larry Page couldn’t even be bothered to spend more than a couple of minutes on the earnings call with Wall Street last night. So to hell with him! Lost under the outrage, of course, is that Larry Page may be doing exactly the right thing: Focusing on Google and Google’s products and users, instead of Wall Street.” I’d agree that finance has become too involved in business. Bankers should be providing businessmen with capital and letting them innovate and sell useful products. Big mergers, private equity firms, and the whole Wall Street machine has become very good at shaking money out of business, but their track record on long term health is less than stellar. Hopefully, Larry Page has enough clout, and an actual strategy, to keep Google doing what they’re doing.

Of course, that leads to the question, what is it that Google does? Most people think of them as a search engine, but in fact, Google sells advertisements, and Business Week has an article about how toxic the focus on advertising has become. Says early facebook employee Jeff Hammerbacher, “”The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” “Once again, 11 years after the dot-com-era peak of the Nasdaq, Silicon Valley is reaching the saturation point with business plans that hinge on crossed fingers as much as anything else. “We are certainly in another bubble,” says Matthew Cowan, co-founder of the tech investment firm Bridgescale Partners. “And it’s being driven by social media and consumer-oriented applications.”" One of the big open questions at Prevail is how new forms of media, particularly social media, can be used to increase social participation and guide what we call the Second Curve of Social Change. But if at the end of the day, if everybody is focused advertising, social media is just perpetuating a cycle of consumption, with more wasted time for average people in an already advertising saturated world, and for the researchers who are supposed to be improve the technology.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? These are big issues, and if any entrepreneurs out there are reading, maybe they could share some ideas.

China’s Censors Tackle And Trip Over The Internet

Since late March, when Google moved its search operations out of mainland China to Hong Kong, each response to a Chinese citizen’s search request has been met at the border by government computers, programmed to censor any forbidden information Google might turn up.  “Carrot” — in Mandarin, huluobo — may seem innocuous enough. But it contains the same Chinese character as the surname of President Hu Jintao. And the computers, long programmed to intercept Chinese-language searches on the nation’s leaders, substitute an error message for the search result before it can sneak onto a mainland computer. 

This is China’s censorship machine, part George Orwell, part Rube Goldberg: an information sieve of staggering breadth and fineness, yet full of holes; run by banks of advanced computers, but also by thousands of Communist Party drudges; highly sophisticated in some ways, remarkably crude in others.

The one constant is its growing importance. Censorship used to be the sleepy province of the Communist Party’s central propaganda department, whose main task was to tell editors what and what not to print or broadcast. In the new networked China, censorship is a major growth industry, overseen — and fought over — by no fewer than 14 government ministries.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/world/asia/08censor.html

Battling The Information Barbarians

China often views the ideas of foreigners, from missionaries in the 17th century to 21st-century Internet entrepreneurs, as subversive imports.  The tumultuous history behind the class with Google.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704878904575031263063242900.html?m