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David Orban
Works at Dotsub
Attended University of Milan
Lives in New York
7,713 followers|249,286 views
What is the question that I should be asking?
  • University of Milan
    Physics, 1987 - 1990
  • University of Padua
    Physics, 1984 - 1987
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David Orban

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More than one hundred thousand years ago we began using fire or, more recently, ten thousand years ago, we began agricultural activities, since then our society has always been influenced profoundly influenced by technology and we have had important dreams of achieving social emancipation, of achieving justice for all. The infrastructures we have not only dreamed about, but designed, built, established at a now planetary level, are drawing a map in ever finer detail of our knowledge of the world.

The resulting emerging structures that we see developing around us day after day, the networks, the networks of networks, the Internet, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything, not only restore capabilities that in an ideal world we think we have lost, they also increase and extend fundamentally what we can do, offering new ways of adapting to resolve our problems in a fractal exploration, to actually find that level of adaptation and strength and robustness in society that we need in the 21st century. Each one of these steps is based on the exponential function, an understanding of which is one of the most important things each one of us can do; whether we’re an industrialist, a teacher, the head of a family, or a child.

When computers were developed, fifty, sixty years ago, they were deaf and blind. They depended on us completely to begin understanding the world and we used keyboards, we used punched cards to tell them what they could learn, what they could understand. Then they began to acquire senses, for example, they were freed from the constraint of the size of human hands, they were able to abandon keyboards and began to feel, to perceive touch. They acquired the ability to see and so can interpret our position, our gestures, our movements. And today it is becoming possible for computers not to need screens because, with improvements in voice recognition and the arrival of conversational interfaces, they will at last be able to disappear into the environment. When that happens, it won’t be the last step, since computers will go further: by connecting to anything and trying to anticipate our wants, they will make objects truly alert because, from a differential viewpoint, the cost of producing computers equipped with this artificial intelligence will be so minute that evolutionary pressure will sweep away devices that don’t have it. However, in addition to artificial intelligence, ever since computers were developed, we have also always talked about ways of supporting man, of augmenting intelligence, of working together, achieving common goals… Artificial intelligence is not something to be afraid of, it shouldn’t be seen as something opposed to us but as something that, like fire one hundred thousand years ago, like agriculture ten thousand years ago, frees us from the constraints of a world, of nature that has no interest in what happens to man and to humanity. Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize winning chemist,

However, in addition to artificial intelligence, ever since computers were developed, we have also always talked about ways of supporting man, of augmenting intelligence, of working together, achieving common goals… Artificial intelligence is not something to be afraid of, it shouldn’t be seen as something opposed to us but as something that, like fire one hundred thousand years ago, like agriculture ten thousand years ago, frees us from the constraints of a world, of nature that has no interest in what happens to man and to humanity. Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize winning chemist, has given the geological epoch we live in a special name, he calls it the “Anthropocene”: the geological era characterized by the presence of man on the Earth. In the blink of an eye, just ten thousand years, you can see from this diagram, the proportion of the biomass of land vertebrates has completely reversed: from what we call “wild animals”, to the sum of human beings and our domestic animals. The situation is clearly unsustainable.

But for people who preach a return to a mythical past, I have a question: is there a difference between us and the dinosaurs besides the fact that dinosaurs didn’t have telescopes? Will we make concrete use of telescopes to find the asteroid? Just the other day, an asteroid passed very close to the Earth. The asteroid that could hit us and about which so far we can do very little. And we shall use these telescopes of the mind, metaphorically speaking too, to continue the virtuous circle of science and reason, in theory and in practice. For people who say that we should go back, my question, asked with relative calm, is who are the 999 people out of a 1000 who would eventually have to die since we had a world population of a few million people, rather than the several billion we have today. Fortunately, no one can give me an answer.

The fact is our planetary civilisation has been enormously successful in the last five hundred years, organising itself through centralised and hierarchical activities into nations, into business organisations, and has developed formidable analysis, implementation and production skills. But today, thanks to sustainable technologies, we are approaching a new phase that gives a concrete advantage to the distributed and decentralised organisation of all these activities. What I call the “network society”.

Think for example about the production of solar energy which is naturally distributed rather than centralised, or about 3D printing in the manufacturing industry, which, has the advantage, of being able to uncouple the complexity of the objects produced from the capital investment, unlike the production chains of the 19th and 20th centuries. The possibility of developing hydroponic crops, urban gardens, vertical gardens and even 3D printing of meat, in environments whose use of energy, water or soil is of a radically reduced order of magnitude compared with the past, without use of pesticides. Personalised healthcare, which, by using smartphones, increasingly sophisticated sensors, makes the individual responsible for conserving their state of health, instead of intervening when it is too late. Every one of these activities is enhanced by the possibilities of the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything. And one is targeted, perhaps by pre-existing interests, because it is labelled a passing fad, but when you see them one after the other, one next to the other, you realize that, in fact, they are part of a great wave, a deep unstoppable wave.

If that is the situation and we accept it together, the question is: what tools can we use to avoid being swept away by this powerful wave but to ride it instead? What new organisations shall we use to empower people so they can express their potential? To emancipate those billions of minds that are joining together with the one or two billion already present online? We have to learn to be advanced citizens of the Internet of Everything to play an active part, to dismantle resistance to this change, to eliminate a feeling of panic that even the experts experience because there are countless variables to be kept under control and predictions don’t necessarily come true. But when we face up to the challenge, wecan really give dignity to the people who play an active part in this new society, because only through this consolidated dignity can we hope to build new communities together. And the advantage we have is that, thanks to the modern technological tools available today, available to everyone, the distance between an idea and action really is being eliminated.

We have the ability to test, to try out such huge numbers of ideas that they represent really unlimited opportunities. And if that is the situation, then really the only question left is: “Who wants to take part?” “Who wants to be involved?” “Who wants to be a protagonist of this rapidly approaching world?”

Transcript of my keynote at CISCOLive! Internet Of Everything in Milan, on January 28, 2015
More than one hundred thousand years ago we began using fire or, more recently, ten thousand years ago, we began agricultural activities, since then our society
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Uomini, sensori e interfacce

L’evoluzione dei computer – in accelerazione esponenziale in base alla legge di Moore che viene seguita da gruppi di ingegneri in tutto il mondo per continuare a comprovarne la validità – ha portato a soluzioni sempre più complesse e adatte ad affrontare una grande varietà di problemi. Avendo acquisito una capacità di comunicazione, i computer hanno formato quella che oggi chiamiamo Internet, una rete di reti. Se inizialmente richiedevano l’assistenza dei programmatori per ogni necessità di acquisizione di dati, attualmente sono dotati di sensori e di conseguenza possono essere autonomi in questa acquisizione.
La progressiva miniaturizzazione dei componenti elettronici, non solo permette di creare sistemi sempre più potenti, ma genera un circolo virtuoso di apparecchiature flessibili che non sono più dotate di tastiera e magari perdono anche la visualizzazione attraverso lo schermo, affiancate da software sempre più adatti a un’interazione naturale, che non impone agli operatori umani di imparare linguaggi strani e modalità di interazione artificiali.
I computer, invece di essere delle apparecchiature separate e dedicate all’elaborazione dei dati, diventano una componente necessaria di ogni prodotto. Il beneficio di dotare di sensori, memoria, capacità di elaborazione e di comunicazione un particolare oggetto supera rapidamente il costo aggiuntivo di queste componenti integrate.
Il ruolo della persona che è in grado di formare un ponte tra gli ingegneri che realizzano il prodotto che si può fabbricare su scala industriale da una parte e chi si occupa di marketing dall’altra, diventa essenziale. Chiamata in inglese user experience, l’interazione tra le diverse parti del prodotto non è più solo questione di materiali, funzionalità locale, facilità di produzione e di impiego immediato, ma si estende su scala globale, abbracciando tutte quelle parti di comunicazione dei dati acquisiti che devono poter essere utilmente aggregate per rappresentare un valore aggiunto fondamentale del prodotto.
Il numero di sensori che stanno costantemente raccogliendo dati aumenta rapidamente all’interno di ogni singolo oggetto (un telefono cellulare oggi è dotato di una dozzina di diversi sensori), e aumenta anche il numero degli oggetti stessi progettati, prodotti, venduti, installati e utilizzati. La quantità di dati sul mondo così raccolti è talmente grande da creare difficoltà non solo nel suo immagazzinamento. Mancano addirittura i prefissi per indicarne l’ordine di grandezza: mega, giga, tera, peta, exa per indicare i numeri di byte non bastano più! Analogamente risulta difficile immaginare che l’approccio centralizzato che caratterizza l’Internet di oggi possa essere sostenibile, con la rincorsa a una creazione di pagliai sempre più grandi alla ricerca di aghi eventualmente migliori. Queste due considerazioni portano alla progettazione di un Internet degli oggetti che permetta di aggregare i dati acquisiti, elaborandoli per trovare una soglia, raggiunta la quale questo dato aggregato meriti di essere memorizzato oppure comunicato, magari raggiungendo una persona solo dopo aver superato dozzine di livelli di verifica, perché questa capacità non risieda centralmente in un data center oppure presso un particolare operatore, ma sia una caratteristica anche locale della rete degli oggetti.
Con l’aumentare rapido del numero di oggetti attorno a noi che sono in grado di comunicare è fondamentale che questi non dipendano dalle nostre decisioni per continuare a operare, altrimenti ci affogherebbero con le loro richieste costanti. I nodi che compongono l’Internet degli oggetti devono essere autonomi e decidere da sé che il 99% dei dati che acquisiscono può essere tranquillamente buttato via. Quell’1% che viene tenuto può essere aggregato e correlato con le corrispondenti parti di dati acquisiti da altri nodi e avvertirci di cosa sta succedendo solo quando è veramente importante. L’attività di acquisizione, elaborazione, aggregazione dei dati, soprattutto se decentralizzata, deve poter essere fatta in modo trasparente, all’interno di una rete di reti in cui diversi produttori partecipino sullo stesso piano alla creazione di valore. Diventa quindi essenziale la promozione di una interoperabilità forte, sia a livello di semplici protocolli di comunicazione e immagazzinamento dei dati, sia a livello di algoritmi decisionali e responsabilità autonoma.
Le macchine robotiche in grado di guidare da sé rappresentano un utile esempio concreto di sperimentazione tecnologica. Indicano anche chiaramente le complessità che la potenza dell’Internet degli oggetti rappresenta non solo dal punto di vista della progettazione e della realizzazione, ma per le implicazioni che vanno oltre a quelle della semplice tecnologia. Che cosa succede se una macchina robotica è coinvolta in un incidente? Di chi sono le responsabilità tra passeggeri, produttori dell’hardware, produttori del software ecc.?
Le strutture emergenti della nostra civiltà – siano queste quelle con cui siamo già familiari come le città, oppure quelle che le reti globali interconnesse stanno disegnando con i social network, oppure, appunto, l’Internet degli oggetti – hanno una loro forte realtà autonoma, la cui natura solo debolmente dipende dalle strutture precedenti che le esprimono. C’è un reale collo di bottiglia nell’applicare le esperienze acquisite precedentemente da queste nuove realtà. Non si può sottostimare la difficoltà nella creazione di una cornice che possa abbracciare le opportunità rappresentate dallo sviluppo sano dell’Internet degli oggetti, che massimizzi i benefici e annulli gli ostacoli al suo sviluppo. Lo sforzo di un dialogo aperto e costruttivo, dotato di grande creatività e immaginazione è la sfida che non possiamo non raccogliere per raggiungere l’obiettivo di un mondo che possa fare leva sulla rete di reti di oggetti intelligenti, l’Internet degli oggetti.

Testo pubblicato originariamente sul numero 100 della rivista Formiche.
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Come to the presentation of +Singularity University Summit Spain in Milan on Feb 24 at 9AM in +Talent Garden, organized by +Frontiers Conferences!

Confirm your participation on the Facebook event page:

Vieni alla presentazione dell'evento Singularity University Summit Spain. Apprenderai i dettagli del programma, incontrando Luis Rey, l'organizzatore dell'evento e David Orban, membro della facoltà e advisor di Singularity University. Avrai anche modo di fare domande sugli Executive Program e Graduate Studies Program di Singularity University.
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Welcome to 2015 and all the new exciting opportunities it brings with it! As you can see from the table of contents, it is certainly a very promising year for Dotsub - our team is growing rapidly and our customer base is expanding. Here you will find product news about integration with Vimeo and ...
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Some sage advice on how to have a year that counts by +Umair Haque - the art of living a life that matters
Three simple questions to ask yourself.
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This is a pretty cool video, announcing financing, opening the alpha more broadly, and hiring! Great, and congrats to +Philip Rosedale and +High Fidelity 
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Come to the first public Network Society Hangout
Network Society Project originally shared:
A set of simultaneous technologies is growing exponentially, with the common feature of being decentralized, and organized in a network. This contrasts with the centralized and hierarchical organization of today’s traditional society and its basic functions. The shift from the old to the new structure will subject the Nation State to an unprecedented pressure. The Network Society project creates a vision and analytical tools to allow individuals, enterprises and the society at large to deal positively with this unstoppable change.

In this first Network Society public Hangout introducing its fundamental thesis and discussing the meaning and opportunity of technology based socio-economic empowerment.

Future hangouts will concentrate on the eight pillars of energy, manufacturing, food, health, learning, finance, security and governance.
This Hangout On Air is hosted by Network Society Project. The live video broadcast will begin soon.
Network Society Public Hangout 1: Introduction
Yesterday, March 1, 5:00 PM
Hangouts On Air - Broadcast for free

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Internet Of Everything is Just the Beginning
Technology cannot be seen as isolated, but it is coevolving together with our society. Since the invention of fire, agriculture, the steam engine, etc. we have not only shaped our technologies but we have been shaped by them.

Necessary evolution

50 years ago computers were born deaf and blind and needed al the help they could get from humans to learn about the world around them. As we have been able to make them more and more powerful, at smaller and smaller sizes, they gained sensors, dropped keyboards and when possible even screens. Unconstrained by the human scales of interaction they are disappearing into the environment and can grow in numbers to vastly more than then mere seven billion or so humans on the planet. The data that they are collecting about the world is becoming evermore precious and the way it is handled must evolve too.

Paradigm shifts

The Internet is really just at the beginning of its design and deployment. Networks of networks are spreading explosively in computers, phones, sensors, cars… and there is no object that can be smart that soon won’t be, as it outcompetes its dumber rivals. Data collected in layers upon layers must be analyzed, understood, and acted upon autonomously by decision making processes that live in the networks without human involvement. We have in front of use huge challenges in understanding the consequences of this necessary but radical change.

Social impact

For hundreds of years centralized and hierarchical organizations, whether nation states or corporations, were the best to formalize and implement plans, to achieve ambitious goals. Now the world is moving towards decentralized and distributed systems, the Network Society, embodied  and put in motion by the Internet of Everything, that are going to empower and emancipate billions of people, with fresh minds connected online, ready to tackle their individual and our common challenges.

I gave a talk about these themes at the Internet of Everything Forum part of +Cisco Live 2015 #IoEForumIta  in Milan.
Technology cannot be seen as isolated, but it is coevolving together with our society. Since the invention of fire, agriculture, the steam engine, etc. we have
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How can we invest the time to teach our devices about ourselves without getting locked in the solutions of a single vendor? Interoperability of conversational interfaces, centered on the user, with strong support for exporting preferences and personalizations is necessary before they can become widespread.

The various operating systems are all moving towards conversational interfaces. There is a very natural reason for this, stemming from the fact that more and more powerful computers can be designed and packaged in smaller and smaller form factors. Any constraint deriving from the human body interposing itself in this process is going to slow it down. The introduction of touchscreens was not only useful to make interfaces more intuitive, it also eliminated the necessity of a full size keyboard, removing one of these size constraints. How can you also eliminate screens, making computers potentially microscopical? If the computer doesn’t have a keyboard, and it doesn’t have a screen, then it is natural for it to listen to what you say and respond to you, in what becomes a natural language dialogue. This is the reason why we are moving towards conversational interfaces.

Apple with Siri, Google with Google Now, and Microsoft with Cortana are doing exactly this… However, there is a fundamental problem with this approach: lack of interoperability, and user-centered design.

At the birth of personal computers their cryptic command lines required specific knowledge to operate them, and only when they were replaced by graphical user interfaces we came to a full understanding of the necessity of ease-of-use, and built computers that were intuitive to use regardless of the specific vendor. If you want to print something, you know there will be an option for it, and you’ll search with your mouse, finding it pretty fast whether you are using a Macintosh or a computer based on Microsoft Windows.

The interactions with the various natural language systems personified by the software agents cannot be tied to a given operating system vendor. They learn about us a lot, and we will expect this knowledge to travel with us as we move from device to device regardless of the make, the model, and the brand of operating system. It is going to be fundamental for their success in the long term to be able to transparently export and import user preferences, interaction histories, every possible kind of knowledge about us that will put us at ease with the next version of the operating system, or the next natural language agent that we meet, regardless of its vendor.

Until such time, the investment that we individually make in training these agents on one hand and learning about them on the other, are going to be temporary advantages, and we are not going to be see a return on it at the levels that we should be able to expect.
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Looking forward to read +RU Sirius' latest book "Transcendence"

"Transcendence is a mind-stretching and entertaining look at the international movement that advocates the use of science and technology to overcome the “natural” limitations experienced by humanity. In nearly ninety A-Z entries, Transcendence provides a multilayered and often witty look at the accelerating advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, genomics, information technology, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, neuroscience, robotics, virtual worlds, and much more, that are making transhumanism a reality."
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On Becoming A Cyborg... When I implanted an NFC chip in my left hand about two months ago at the +Singularity University Summit Europe in Amsterdam, I followed the tradition of our species that a hundred thousand years or more ago decided to become a cyborg. The NFC chip, sold through the aptly named Dangerous Things website, is embedded in a glass vial and is injected under the skin between the thumb and the index finger, safely lodged in plenty of shock absorbing tissue. The operation, performed by Tom Hannes of Piercing Utrecht, was fast, and not too painful.

Technology has been with humans for a long time. Not only agriculture that accelerated our civilization’s evolution stopping our hunter-gatherer nomadic lifestyle ten thousand years ago. But the use of fire, which has provided us with a technology-based digestion process external to our stomachs, allowing us to spend less time to absorb more useful energy to feed our hungry brains.

When people talk about their latest phones, or their wearables, I have the opportunity to mention the implant to them. The most shocking moment comes when they touch my hand, and they can actually feel the rice grain-sized chip under the skin. Most of the people are physically revolted by it, and all of them are rather astonished.

The first goal of getting the implant, which today is worn by a pretty small number of people is achieved through this: to open the conversation about these technologies, and breaking down the social barrier to their adoption.

We have been accustomed to restorative implants for over fifty years, since the first pacemakers, and nobody would dream of saying that somebody should rather die than getting one. On the other hand, augmentative interventions appear to be more controversial, and people often make reference to fairness, and level playing fields, when confronted with the possibility that others in their peer group could rely on physical or cognitive augmentation to achieve their personal or business goals.

Luckily we have been able to arrive to positive conclusions in these conversations in the past already. Yes, we have glasses to restore our vision if we have a defect in our eyesight, but we also have binoculars, and telescopes that greatly extend the range and acuity of our unenhanced vision.

An other reason to get implanted for me was to experiment first-hand with technology in general, and with that of the NFC implants in particular. An important difference between previous RFID chips is that those only had a serial number in them, that could not be changed, while the NFC chip can also hold other information in its memory, it is writable, and can be used for different applications: identification, access control, transactions are some of the applications that are possible already today.

Currently I am keeping the private keys of my Bitcoin wallet on the chip, as an example application.

What is the best way to manage Bitcoin wallets? We don’t know yet, as all the reflexes that we have towards traditional money don’t apply, and the new ones have not developed yet. That is why experimenting with different ways of using wallets, and dynamically adjust the balance between convenience and security is important.

Exporting the private key of a Blockchain wallet, "5KTVg5…", writing it on the implant, and then restoring the wallet from the private key, are the current cumbersome steps that certainly are going to get easier with software supporting better and smoother experiences.

This is just one of the applications of the implant which is not approved for human use at this time, and very few people have it. But those who are ready to experiment, are trailblazing for billions of others following with applications that are going to be designing the contours of the future.
Nikolaj Berntsen's profile photoThomas Milne's profile photo
I got a NFC ring from Geekbuying.
Using it with Tasked with timed swipes.
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