Saturday, April 30, 2005

Queen's Night

It's a special Queen's Day today because it's the 25th anniversary of Queen's day. In Brazil you have carnival, here we have Queen's day. Here in Holland we have a odd and fun phenomena each year where people can sell their junk on the street without a license. Had a blast last night with friends across the city, and maybe a few too many glasses of ye old amber nectar.

Democracy innovation
It's no new news that democracies across the western industrialized countries have been in decline. People have steadily lost interest in voting, in listening to what politicians have to say, and the disconnect has been painful. Ouch! I was very happy to find a juicy link to this bumper report in my inbox by Power: An independent inquiry into Britain's democracy. It is entitled, Beyond the Ballot: 57 Democratic innovations from around the world, which you can view here (pdf). You can also listen to a brief podcast between with Helena Kennedy and Sam Giddy about 'experiments in democracy' on BBC Radio 4. (Real audio file) Also let me point to this link which shows how my individual frustration led me to a ("toungue-in-cheek") personal redesign of some taxation forms for the Netherlands a couple years back. I am bot sure now that personalized tax would be efficient although it is certainly an equalizer. Would love to talk to the dutch government and other parties to explore this thread further.

Local initiatives of interest

Check out 10 new voices. "A pioneering program to seed innovative community news ventures in the United States. Through 2006, New Voices will help fund the start-up of 10 micro-local news projects with $12,000 grants; support them with an educational Web site, and help foster their sustainability through $5,000 second-year matching grants."
And a local community blog called Northfield .

Measuring hearts and minds

I previewed what Microsoft was up to with their MyLifeBits software last month. That was a scary and powerful new software tool integrating all your communication devices and recording "everything"from phone calls to your walk through the park (as plotted over a map using the GPS in your phone). So those smart ladies and gents over at MIT now have released some of the data they have been gathering in their research project called Reality Mining .
"The Reality Mining experiment is one of the largest academic mobile phone projects in the US. Our research agenda takes advantage of the increasingly widespread use of mobile phones to provide insight into the dynamics of both individual and group behavior. By leveraging recent advances in machine learning we are building generative models that can be used to predict what a single user will do next, as well as model behavior of large organizations."
Found via Information Aesthetics and Boing Boing

....and last but not least (trying to answer the value proposition of this blog), a ....

Mind Reading Machine that knows your thoughts before you do!

REMOTE measurements of a person's brain activity can show what they are thinking - even when they are not aware of it themselves.

So far, the technique has only been used to identify visual patterns. But it may eventually be possible to probe awareness, focus of attention, memory and even someone's intentions. In the meantime, it could help detect whether people who appear to be in a coma are in fact conscious.

In previous studies, scientists have trained monkeys to move robotic arms with the power of thought. Others have managed to recreate scenes moving in front of cats by recording information direct from the animals' neurons (New Scientist, 2 October 1999, p 17). Both these experiments required electrodes to be inserted into creatures' brains though.