Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Online social networking and community when machines think – an emerging reality

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 1, 2010

I have been posting an ongoing series of thoughts and organizing them into an at least semi-organized single overarching conceptualization over the past 254 postings, and I want to continue that here, by picking up on a core concept that has been running through several of my posting series but primarily without explanation. I specifically cite my postings in:

Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and
Social Networking and Business.

And I find myself thinking of Alan Mathison Turing and the Turing test as I write this. We all tend to take a very anthropocentric view of communications, social networking, reason and intelligence, and of community and that is understandable as that is where most if not all of our direct experience of these processes lies. If we expand awareness of the potential of these phenomena and epiphenomena beyond the strictly human and human-centric it is usually in acknowledging that we do develop social bonds and connect with members of other species, and certainly with members of species that we commonly associate with – domesticated or otherwise. And awareness of animal behavior shows that humans do not have a complete monopoly on either reason or capacity to communicate. But the basic ground-state assumption that we start from with our tools and devices is that they are simply inanimate objects and that this precludes any such capacities.

And at the same time we are developing Web 3.0 and hardware and software-based capacity to process and parse, filter and sort, and in some sense understand increasingly wider types of information input. This can mean analyzing images in airports drawn from security surveillance cameras and recognizing faces as such from the ever changing flow of incoming data. It now, for that purpose means being able to screen all of these recognized facial images to compare them with known image files, and even when the people depicted in those watch list files were photographed from different angles than show in the more current surveillance images.

To continue with consideration of image files, I would cite an example that we all see and respond to as an automated gatekeeper in our online experience – the CAPTCHA test (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.) So far ingenuity in formatting and positioning those upper and lower case letters and numbers has kept this test viable for screening out automated, computer-only input in registrations and other processes intended by site providers for human input only. But it is only a matter of time before CAPTCHA becomes obsolete as a screening test for blocking spammers and others who would game systems with fully automated participation.

Every day our computer-based systems are becoming incrementally more and more capable of autonomously processing data into understandable forms and of taking meaningful action on the results of their processing. And one result of this growing capability is that our computers and networks in hardware and software – the underlying infrastructure that enables human online networking and information processing and sharing, is increasingly entering the conversation in its own right too.

I wrote in my 250th posting to this blog that I have had several proposed topic areas that I have had waiting in the queue for their turn to be written up upon and posted here. This is an area where that definitely applies and in this case I will be posting at least key portions of this topic primarily in my ubiquitous computing series.

And I turn to what I see as an emerging likely Turning test-positive killer app for:

• automated and machine-inclusive online developing, sharing and processing of data into knowledge, and
• online social networking of the fruits of this

with SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems and with more fully automated, self-managing SCADA systems in particular.

Killer apps generally seem to arrive from unexpected directions and this is no exception. SCADA systems are primarily industrial and core infrastructure control systems and the working example I see as exemplifying the potential for this type of break-through is in development of next generation electrical power grids.

Stepping back from that specific example for the balance of this posting though, I would as a final thought here, attempt to bring this into some sort of numerical scale. Right now, a great deal of thought and effort is going into adding as many RFID tags and tagged devices as possible into our computer-based networks, and for both internal-to-the-infrastructure data exchange and processing and for direct human access and interaction through our network connections. This is rapidly going to mean increasing the number of connected nodes in our overall networks from the low billions in direct human interacting points of access to the trillions. I find myself thinking as I write this of a very particular analogy drawn from physics and astronomy – the discovery of dark matter and its closely related dark energy.

We are comprised of what we view as regular, normal, conventional matter and energy and everything we can directly perceive with our senses and our tools and devices as belonging to our conventional universe is composed of this same matter and energy too. This is what we are formed from and its basic properties determine the fundamental parameters of the physics and chemistry of all of our ongoing experience. But underlying all of this is a much larger pool of what we now know as dark matter and dark energy. The only seeming connection we can find in interaction with our more conventionally visible universe is through a shared link of gravity and gravitational interaction. In that, dark matter makes our visible universe possible as we see and know it. So for example, it is the cumulative interactive impact of this that makes galaxies possible as stable forms.

The increasing number of fully automated nodes and all of their traffic in data and knowledge generated from it goes on largely below the surface of direct human intervention or experience but like dark matter and dark energy it is expanding to a point where it will become the dominate by volume and bandwidth presence in shaping online. But unlike dark matter and its even more illusive dark energy this can and will interact with us all of the time and in an ever increasing range of ways and contexts. In this, invisibility will not stem from a paucity of connecting interaction, but rather from its ubiquity, with nothing noticeable under most circumstances that would make its presence overtly visible. We do and we increasingly will be interacting both with people and with the underlying technology in hardware and software devices and the boundaries between these fundamental domains will blur and disappear, at least to the level of interaction and the Turing test.

There are some fundamental implications to this that I see as worth exploring and I will be looking into that in future postings in follow-up to this.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SemanticBot. SemanticBot said: #SemNews : Online social networking and community when machines think – an … […]

  2. […] business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on May 3, 2010 I started this series (see Part 1 posting) with a focus on the Turing test and this posting continues from there with a second concept added […]

  3. […] community, business and the online experience in general. I began this series with discussion of machine intelligence and the Turing test and continued that with a second installment following through on this foundational topic. I then […]

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