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Gideon Rosenblatt
Works at The Vital Edge
Attended Wharton School
Lives in Seattle
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Gideon Rosenblatt

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Human Behavior, as Guided by Artificial Intelligence

This was a fascinating piece to write. It's about neuroscientist Jeffrey Lin, who is dramatically reducing people’s toxic behavior in online gaming at Riot Games - by using artificial intelligence. This isn't some future vision. They flipped the switch a few months ago and it's working. 

What Riot has built is an artificial intelligence system that automates responses to toxic behavior in its flagship game, League of Legends. Think of it as an artificial immune response system.
Though I'm not personally a gamer, I felt compelled to understand how this system came to be. I wanted to understand how it worked and what its implications might be for influencing human behavior in other contexts. 

There are so many interesting facets to this story. I find it frightening in some ways, and very inspiring in others. 

Riot is clearly out front in applying artificial intelligence in gaming. I predict the next large-scale applications of crowdsourced artificial intelligence will be in social networks. Facebook and Google have snapped up the leaders of a particularly promising type of machine learning called Deep Learning, and Twitter is ramping up its artificial intelligence investments too. Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google’s DeepMind acquisition, recently noted that “In six months to a year’s time we’ll start seeing some aspects of what we’re doing embedded in Google Plus, natural language and maybe some recommendation systems.”

Hassabis made that comment about artificial intelligence here in Google+ just about six months ago. What do you think he was hinting at? Will it be used to better understand and match people's interests here? Also, Google+ is pretty tame on the toxic behavior bar when compared to sites like YouTube, reddit, 4chan, and online gaming, but could something like this be applied here too? Do we need it? Would we want it?

I will probably end up diving back into this story again soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

#humanbehavior   #ai   #artificialintelligence   #leagueoflegends   
Artificial intelligence is reducing toxic behavior in online gaming and could mark the future of influencing human behavior.
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da Vinci's Viola Organista Vibrates Back to Life

We might not have yet figured out a way to bring velociraptors or woolly mammoths back, but " ...nearly 500 years after da Vinci sketched his plans for a musical instrument he dubbed the Viola Organista, Polish concert pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki spent more than 5,000 hours making da Vinci's idea a reality."

Make sure to watch the video of Zubrzycki actually playing this beautiful instrument. It's a treat. 

More on this amazing instrument, and to see an even more beautiful keyboard view:

#design   #music  
Polish pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki spent more than 5,000 hours making da Vinci's idea a reality. Watch this performance of a single instrument that almost sounds like a chamber ensemble.
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Thank you for sharing U2 can create history with us by supporting release of first ever CD album!
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Big Data, Neo-Behavioralism, and the Mathematics of Human Relationships

"I’m also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is."

Nicholas Carr:
It’s not hard to understand the source of Zuckerberg’s misperception. Human beings, like ants or chickens, share a certain bundle of tendencies, a certain nature, and if you analyze our behavior statistically that nature will evidence itself in mathematical regularities. Zuckerberg is hardly the first to confuse the measurement of a phenomenon with the cause of the phenomenon. If some amount of data reveals a pattern, then, surely, more data will reveal “a fundamental mathematical law.”

Is there really an algorithmic explanation for the cause of our behavior; is that the way things actually work inside us, or is it just something we reflect back to ourselves when we look at ourselves with our computational tools?

The New Behavioralism
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Very well said, +Peter Strempel. Very well said. 

And yes, it is the intention behind the interest which is most troubling. 
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Automating Media Publishing

For those of you who may have missed this piece when it was first published on the Vital Edge, I'm now republishing it on Medium. 

It's longish, so the two sets of people most likely to be interested in this are: 
1) People in media and publishing
2) People interested in automation and technological unemployment

Lots of research went into this one and there are lots of good stats on employment, pricing and other impacts of automation in book, magazine and newspaper publishing. 

#media   #publishing   #technologicalunemployment  
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Thanks +Stuart O'Neill! And thanks for the comments over on Medium. Working on something right now, but will get to them later. 
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Pinterest as Google+'s New Target

If it's not abundantly clear already, Pinterest is emerging a much more clear competitive frame for understanding the future of Google+. It's an over-simplification, as there are significant difference, but it's still a useful one. 

A Newly Emerging Google Plus Strategy
The catalyst for this post were some thoughts from Bradley Horowitz just a couple hours ago: 

"Relieved of the notion of integrating with every other product at Google, Google+ can now focus on doing what it’s already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love. Aspects of the product that don’t serve this agenda have been, or will be, retired. But you’ll also see a slew of improvements that make this use case shine."

Connecting people around "interests they love" is another way of saying connecting people through an "interest graph." The battle for the social graph is pretty much over, and Facebook clearly won. Google's new strategy is a clear acknowledgement of this and an indication that it sees the battle for the interest graph as: a) important and b) far from decided. 
So, why is the interest graph so important, you ask? 

Supporting the Knowledge Graph 
Google is making a huge bet on its Knowledge Graph, as a central strategy for maintaining the technological superiority of its search engine. In fact, you could say that this service is actually in the midst of transforming from a search engine to a knowledge engine. Google Now is the visible end of this wedge, a wedge which will soon emerge as a Virtual Personal Assistant, and eventually as a much more powerful artificial intelligence agent. 

Understanding which people care about and have influence on particular topics will be one of the very valuable products of deepening Google+ investments in the interest graph. That, in turn, will strengthen the company's ability to execute on its Knowledge Graph strategy. 

The Bigger Battle with Amazon
In the big picture, the real competitive battle that Google faces as a company - is with Amazon. People were recently asked their top three places for researching gift purchases in the holiday season. “Online search” registered 45%, down from 49% a year ago. Meantime, the channel growing the most in popularity was the one that includes Amazon, jumping to 37% from 31%. 

The Google-Amazon battle is actually a battle of business models, with Google running an advertising strategy and Amazon a commerce strategy. Sure, there are exceptions, and the lines can get very blurry with things like "buy now" button ads, but by and large, that is how the competition is falling out. When you think about it, the searches that Amazon is increasingly winning from Google are searches that are most closely tied to actual sales. They are, in other words, some of the most lucrative advertising that Google has. 

Going back to the interest graph, perhaps more than any other company in the world, Amazon has a very detailed and extremely valuable mapping of the products and services you care about. It has, in short, a very lucrative interest graph, deeply embedded into its commerce business model. 

As noted above, monetization isn't the only reason that Google is building its interest graph. That said, it will be monetizing its interest graph, and it will be doing that through an advertising strategy - not primarily a commerce strategy like Amazon's. 

The Pinterest Opportunity
Pinterest was founded in 2010, one of many startups launched around that timeframe based on the premise of the interest graph. The rest have long-since failed, but Pinterest is now valued at $11 billion and its revenue generating potential is just starting to build steam. 

Pinterest's monetization efforts around things like "buy now" buttons are generating lots of intrigue, but I believe the company represents something more than that. They are a kind of fusion between online advertising and a retail environment. Pinterest's CEO Ben Silbermann likes to differentiate Pinterest from Google by noting that the service is about "discovery," not "search." People like to browse collections in Pinterest, to become inspired, to have their interests piqued, to discover stuff through seeming serendipity that they weren't specifically seeking in the first place. In other words, there's a kind of grazing, browsing behavior on Pinterest that does sort of feel like a retail store. 

In other words, Pinterest, with its strength in discovery, falls someplace in between the Amazon and Google commerce and advertising strategies. Just as importantly, behind the scenes, Pinterest is building an interest graph, tied to commercially valuable topics. And unlike Amazon, they're not integrating this interest graph with the core competencies of warehousing, returns, fulfillment and other aspects of a commerce company. In short, they're building the kind of interest graph that's of interest to an advertising giant; an interest graph chock-full with all kinds of insights into what end users care most about. 

Like Google. 

The Differences
Just to be clear: I'm not saying that Google+ will or should suddenly start looking and behaving like Pinterest. Despite the new Collections feature, Google+ is a very different beast. I would be very surprised if we woke up one day to find "buy it now" buttons showing up on Google+. And I don't even think that we'll be seeing many collections of "my favorite lipsticks" or "my favorite dresses" - the kinds of collections that are very common and natural on Pinterest. 

That just isn't the culture here on Google+. No, I don't see Google attempting to replicate the kind of "retail" environment strategy that Pinterest seems to be headed towards. The management here is smart enough to recognize the culture differences between G+ and Pinterest. Although now that Google+ is freed from its broader corporate mandates, which I think helped it take a pass on revenue-generating expectations, I will go on record here saying that I would not be at all surprised to find Google reversing its policy of 'no ads' here on Google+ - possibly within the next year or two.

What I do see quite clearly is Google moving down a path where Google+ becomes a more powerful addition to its interest graph building capacity. Search is already a very powerful tool for tracking end user interests over time. What it's missing is the ability to note interest in a more passive browsing mode. This is the discovery mode that Pinterest makes so much of, and it maps nicely to the streams, photos and sharing that now describes the team that will be remaking Google+. 

Bradley Horowitz post on Google+ changes:

Pinterest CEO and co-founder Ben Silbermann, talking about Pinterest's strategy and the central importance of the interest graph:

The Interest Graph Maps Our Connections to Ideas and Things

Google’s  Biggest Competitor…is Amazon

What is Google+ (Really)?

#sharedinterestgraph   #pinterest   #amazon   #googleplus  
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+Peter Vogel Collections is somewhat useful and about 1/3 of a good idea, but suffers from both design and implementation. As does much on G+.
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Petrichor: The Smell of Rain
Yesterday, I was outside with my older son as a light rain was just starting to fall - the first rain here in Seattle for a while. We were both struck by the power of that wonderful smell; so much so in fact, that I had to try to understand what it was. I rarely excerpt Wikipedia at length, but in this case, I'll make an exception because it's so awesome. 

Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɨkɔər/) is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek, petra, meaning ‘stone’, + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

The term was coined in 1964 by two researchers, Isabel Joy Bear (Australian) and Roderick G. Thomas (British), for an article in the journal Nature. In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, a metabolic by-product of certain Actinobacteria, which is emitted by wet soil, producing the distinctive scent; ozone may also be present if there is lightning. In a follow-up paper, Bear and Thomas (1965) showed that the oil retards seed germination and early plant growth. This would indicate that the plants exude the oil in order to safeguard the seeds from germination under duress.

Some scientists believe that humans appreciate the rain scent because ancestors may have relied on rainy weather for survival.

Wikipedia on Petrichor:

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Smell is our very powerful scent and, consciously or not, it brings back memories that we sometimes forget or take time to process.  For example, when I first opened up a bottle of tea tree oil which, at the time was " new " to me, I was blown away at the smell, which reminded me of the school / summer camp nurse's office of my childhood - well over 50 years ago.  I forgot that tea tree oil was part of the medicinal cabinet then ( I believe it was then referred to simply as a disinfectant ).  Just my 2 cents' worth :=)
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Go Germany!

What caused the record-breaking numbers? According to Craig Morris, a writer for the German website Energiewende, it was the weather. Morris attributs the rise in wind power to a storm passing through the north of the country, where the majority of Germany's wind turbines stand. It also helped that it was a sunny day in southern Germany, home to most of the country's solar panels.

#windpower   #solarpower  
For one day last week, 78 percent of Germany's power was generated by renewables like solar and wind. Now the country plans to spend €200 billion to move away from fossil fuels permanently.
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130 million is no spring chicken, but I would have thought that flowing plants were older than that somehow. Really interesting look at the history of flowers, by +Lacerant Plainer​.
How flowers changed the world : Flowers appeared on Earth about 130 million years ago. Before flowers, land plants evolved from a group of green algae, perhaps as early as 510 million years ago, but the evolution of the seed which was deployed for dispersal made plants ubiquitous. And this helped to increase the concentration of Oxygen in the atmosphere. Do watch this video which is kind of fantastic : (How to grow a planet with prof Iain Stewart.

Recently evolved : If all Earth's history were compressed into an hour, flowering plants would exist for only the last 90 seconds. But once they took firm root about 100 million years ago, they swiftly diversified in an explosion of varieties that established most of the flowering plant families of the modern world.

It's why we exist : Today flowering plant species outnumber by twenty to one those of ferns and cone-bearing trees, or conifers, which had thrived for 200 million years before the first bloom appeared. As a food source flowering plants provide us and the rest of the animal world with the nourishment that is fundamental to our existence. In the words of Walter Judd, a botanist at the University of Florida, "If it weren't for flowering plants, we humans wouldn't be here."

Evolution and Innovation : What allowed flowering plants to dominate the world's flora so quickly? What was their great innovation? Early angiosperms got their start on the margins. In a world dominated by conifers and ferns, these botanical newcomers managed to get a toehold in areas of ecological disturbance, such as floodplains and volcanic regions, and adapted quickly to new environments. Fossil evidence leads some botanists to believe that the first flowering plants were herbaceous, meaning they grew no woody parts. (The latest genetic research, however, indicates that most ancient angiosperm lines included both herbaceous and woody plants.) Unlike trees, which require years to mature and bear seed, herbaceous angiosperms live, reproduce, and die in short life cycles. This enables them to seed new ground quickly and perhaps allowed them to evolve faster than their competitors, advantages that may have helped give rise to their diversity.

Flashy is better : Casting pollen to the wind is a hit-or-miss method of reproduction. Although wind pollination suffices for many plant species, direct delivery by insects is far more efficient. Insects doubtless began visiting and pollinating angiosperms as soon as the new plants appeared on Earth some 130 million years ago. But it would be another 30 or 40 million years before flowering plants grabbed the attention of insect pollinators by flaunting flashy petals.

References and Sources:

Gif courtesy (Tumblr) :
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Thanks +Andrew Bolt :)
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Ethereum Launches

We may look back on this day in history as the start of something important. Ethereum just went live. 

It's too soon to know just how transformative this new blockchain-based technology platform will prove to be, but I'm excited about its potential. 

#ethereum   #blockchain   #DAO  
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I suspect it will depend on critical mass. With Samsung and IBM involved, it very well might have legs.
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Google is attaching be sensors to its Street View cars in order to monitor pollution levels:

In the first pilot, three Street View cars collected 150 million air quality data points over a month of driving around Denver, Colorado. They measured for chemicals that are hazardous to breathe, like nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon, particulate matter, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
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The earth is fine. The only ones in danger are the puny humans.
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Boosting Creativity with Software that Reduces Social Conformity

The trick is to avoid clustering, where the same people have the same experiences. We want Mike and Beth to see and discuss each other’s ideas, and Beth to interact the same way with Dan, but we don’t want Dan to loop back into Mike’s ideas. No two people see the same batch of ideas, so each person retains an independence that helps to combat social convergence. These partial connections within the overall group of participants provide some diversity while diminishing the pressure for conformity. You still have plenty of interaction, but it’s distributed across the full group, which can be of any size.

Good catch, +John Hagel​.
The paradox of collective intelligence - it can leverage diversity but also increase pressure for conformity
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Yes, that's a good connection, +Leland LeCuyer​. I think that this touches on one of the really interesting systems design challenges in a world where more and more people have the potential to contribute ideas.
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Google Maps Will Help You Track Your Movements Over Time

Think of it as a personal scrapbook where you can pick and choose which locations you want to save and memories you'd want to preserve -- only you don't have to do much to record those moments. Google will do it for you.

#contextualcomputing #placebasedsoftware 
Google Maps has started rolling out a Timeline feature to desktops and Android users that shows their location history and associated information.
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I'm a technologist with a background in business and social change. I write about the impact of technology on organizations and society.
  • The Vital Edge
    Publisher and Writer, 2013 - present
    Disruptively good business.
  • Alchemy of Change
    Writer, 2010 - 2012
    Executive Director, 2001 - 2010
  • Microsoft
    Product Unit Manager, 1991 - 2001
  • US China Business Council
    1985 - 1989
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Beijing - Tokyo - Philadelphia - Washington, DC - Salt Lake City
What do we want our organizations and technologies to be when they wake up?
I'm a writer with a background in technology, business and social change. 

Most of my writing these days is at The Vital Edge, where I explore how technology affects organizations and the way people work. I am particularly interested in artificial intelligence, automation and networks and what they hold for the future of humanity. 

I believe in the human soul, and I believe it deserves a place in our understanding of organizations and technology. I have no interest in pushing religion or any particular spiritual point of view, but I do believe in exploring technology and human organization on a deeper level than is typical for these topics today. 

When it comes to my presence on Google+, most of my effort here is really aimed at connecting with people who are drawn to the questions I explore through my writing. I am active on Twitter (@gideonro) as well, and share content more frequently there, but my deepest online engagement is still here on Google+. 

My Story
For nine years, I ran Groundwire, a mission-driven technology consulting group, dedicated to building a more sustainable world. Groundwire specialized in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) databases, websites, social media communications, and engagement strategy as a way to help organizations mobilize people around sustainability causes.

Prior to Groundwire, I worked at Microsoft for ten years (back when it was cool), in various marketing, product development and management positions. While there, I developed CarPoint, one of the world's first large-scale e-commerce websites. I also marketed the world’s first digital encyclopedia and dictionary, and other innovative multimedia works.
I was raised in Utah, lived and worked in Japan and China for several years, and now live in Seattle with my wife, CJ, and two boys. Oh, and I am a proud board member of YES! Magazine.

#AI #automation #organization #technology #GoodBusiness #soul 
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  • Wharton School
    MBA, 1989 - 1991
  • Lewis and Clark College
    International Relations
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