Friday, October 31, 2008

making the case for 3D vs. Flat

Once you have spent any time wandering around in virtual worlds, the Web looks surprisingly flat and 2 dimensional. It feels like back lit magazine pages with postcard sized videos squeaking out low-fi, mono audio. And lonely - very solitary.

Why bother, when you have the option for a collaborative experience that simulates the real world interaction of humans. The traditional Internet experience is asynchronous - no matter what the Web 2.0 evangelists say. You say something and wait, then I say something and wait, then someone else says something and so on. How much real collaborative energy exists in those interactions? None, zero, zip. Today's social networking sites remind me of a guest book at 19th century B&B - * blueberry pancakes were delicious, the view from the veranda was lovely...see you next time...* Snoresville.
Make my digital interaction 3D - I need to be able to go somewhere and talk with someone and sit and have a chat or use digital artifacts to stimulate and drive our discussion.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

scan it

Amazing how the interaction of carbon based life forms has changed in the past few years. Used to be once upon a time that you needed to have face to face interaction in order to purchase things. Someone had to ring up your items, and take your money and give you your change and put your purchase in a bag(s). But that era has ended as I discovered last weekend.

I went to my local super grocery store late on a Saturday afternoon and initiated my spree by scanning the key tag with my store assigned ID number. It then assigned me what could only be described as a *wand*. This is what I used to scan each item before I put it in my cart. It would also make the occasional *ringing cash register* sound if I passed by an item on a shelf that was on sale or had a 2 for 1 type of promo running. The sound was somewhat disconcerting at first, but I got used to it. So, I ticked items off my list, grabbing whatever senior management had requested (read: the wife) and then checked out. By once again placing the *wand* in front of a scanning device in an automated check out aisle, it downloaded the data about the items and their costs and then asked me to pay. I used my debit card, took the receipt after the computerized female voice said *don't forget to take your receipt". I then bagged the groceries myself and strolled out of the store.

And then it hit me. Not once during the course of that entire experience had I interacted with another human. It was weird. As if I had not really been in the store. No one had said hello. Or even asked if I wanted paper or plastic.
Time marches on I guess. Maybe next time I'll opt for the real person at the cash register so we two breathing creatures can have some semblance of interaction.

Monday, April 21, 2008

dreaming of life off the grid

It was triggered by a casual remark. Part of a script that the pilot reads four times a day. Just tossed off as one phrase about half way through an hour long monologue delivered through a headset mike to a helicopter full of pasty tourists from the mainland. But it triggered something organic, visceral within me. I was surprised at the effect. But it was there. Undeniable. And I am still grappling with it.

OK – so in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll be 58 this summer – yikes…scary. At 22 I had hair down to the middle of my back, straight, parted in the middle. And small round glasses like my idol John Lennon. And I did actually go to Woodstock. It was wonderful. Everything you can imagine…times 10. But I digress.

After we had flown over Mt. Wai’ale’ale, and then down along the Na Pali coast, he tilted the chopper and started flying west up the Kalalau Valley. Rather unemphatically he stated “…and there are about 40 hippies living off the grid down there in paradise. They’ve been out there since the 70’s.”

And something in me clicked. Wow, man - that sounds cool. I could make that work. The scenery was breathtaking - painfully exquisite – lush verdant angular cliffs rising 3,000 feet from the turquoise sea, straight up. Being a child of the 60’s came back to me; a flower power teenager and then a full fledged hippie in college, foot loose and fancy free, being only in the moment. Practicing yoga and reading Ram Dass and being a vegetarian. Wearing basically the same clothes for weeks on end. Devouring music. Savoring every nanosecond - not wasting any synaptic cycles worrying about the future. Calendar-ectomy.

I had a visceral reaction to this guy’s comment. It brought back a flood of memories. And made me long for that sensation, the spontaneity, the joy.

After he set us gently back down on terra firma, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind’s eye - those people living out there, in that beautiful valley, a short walk down to an unspoiled primordial beach. No phones, no computers, no dealines, no video games, no TV. They had no idea who Brittany Spears was. Herding wild goats and growing their own taro.

I asked almost every local I met after that about Kalalau – had they been out there? What had they seen? You can only get there by walking or by boat. It is a grueling two day hike – about 11 miles – on a narrow and rocky path along the coastline. In the summer, the sea on the north side of the island is said to be like glass and you can kayak to the beach. Many people I spoke to had made the trip. And they shared some great stories with me.

One young woman had been out there four times and said it was amazing. There is a lending library which consists of a circle of hammocks under the trees with books on tables all around the perimeter. You take one and lie down under the shade of the koa trees. Another person described the locals as being very low key and friendly and welcoming to visitors. The dress code is quite relaxed – one visitor described having a woman step out of the underbrush wearing nothing but a beaded necklace and hiking boots. There is a defacto *mayor* who keeps an eye on things and comes into town periodically to connect with the real world. People are having babies and raising families out there, too. They do everything that we do living here on the grid – except get stressed and compete and pose.

The rangers go there every Tuesday by either chopper or semi-inflatable boat to check on permits and clean out garbage – it is a state campground officially. And they try to chase the hippies out, but only half heartedly it seems.

Kalalua Valley is rumored to be where the ancient Hawaiians lived – because it is so beautiful and so remote. The next valley along the coast is where they buried their kings and queens, in caves in the cliff faces – out of reach of predators and marauders.

Maybe someday I’ll go back and make the hike in to see what these folks are up to. To see how they live, away from the race de’ rat - with the winning and losing rodents. Where that first stretch in the morning greets the sun, as it floats up over the Pacific. Pull a sourapple from a tree, peel and eat it for breakfast. Then wander down to the beach, wade into the warm blue waves for a soothing swim. Go get a book from the library. Return the one from last night. And be in the moment.

Oh…sounds sweet. If at some point you wonder where I have gone, think of Kalalau.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday nite on Millstone Road

man...glad it is almost the weekend...about to roll over into the Satur-day. busy month again this week...but what's new

brain continues to churn, doesn't realize yet that the work week is over now - trying to slow it down as it meanders in and out of various disparate topics including: Japanese hotels on the moon, prosthetic brains, museums whose contents you program before entering.

Virtual world interaction occuring today across the globe is simply the precursor to wider interaction with carbon-based and other life forms across the galaxy. We are in the nascient the wee small early hours of the trend - tough to get an accurate picture sitting here in the dawning years of century the 21st. After all, it wasn't that long ago that this was all geologic terms at least.

Looking forward to what's next...excuse me, gotta go book my seat on Virgin Galactic.