December 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
I’ve understood that it is not wise or respectable professional behavior from a writer to publicly announce that he or she is writing a novel, which will be finished and published by a specific date.
So, I will release my book, a novel on September 9th 2017 in Helsinki, Finland, probably at about 3 PM. If I don’t find an established publishing house, tempted enough by its story, the genre, and style I will again rely on CreateSpace, just as I did with my earlier book Perceptions of a Camino.
Writing of the story I’ve repeatedly wondered what the genre of my novel might be. Slowly I have realized that it can be classified as a member of a specific – nonexistent, as far as I know – genre. In the following I will shortly define that genre – Fiction science – as I think of it. I found this problem curious enough to share the idea and in case it has already been defined somewhere, I will probably learn it from my kind readers. I have earlier written a related story in Finnishnews: http://www.finnishnews.fi/travel/professor-gote-nyman-perceptions-of-real-places-and-virtual-characters/
I tried – not very hard, though – a couple of verbatim and other Google searches “Fiction science” but did not find its definition. The search led to a relevant consultancy “fictionscience” offering their science consultancy for the writers in need and even stuff related to discography. Despite the poor results, I still believe that someone has used the term and definition, especially as it is such a simple transformation of Science fiction, a mere order of the words… However, it seemed reasonable to at least boost the genre of Fiction science by defining it as I’m now doing here, perhaps even sharpening the definition.
The title of my definitely forthcoming book is “Perceptions of the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” and it tells about real scientist and artists in a way I will not disclose here. But I write about actual, creative people, their real life, as I have imagined it, based on a number of sources. In this sense the story with its imaginary characters meeting real historical persons is, in a way, a distant cousin to Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris, which he wrote and directed: Wikipedia describes it as a romantic comedy. It was actually one of the inspirations to the story I write although mine is not a comedy.
In the Midnight in Paris movie the main character, Gil Pender, a screenwriter, is, as far as I know, a purely fictional figure, but the artists he meets are real historical painters, writers and poets. Among them we can find Ernest Hemingway, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Paul Gauguin, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel and other colorful, historical personalities. In the story, both Gil and the artists he meets have been molded to behave in a fictional, but strictly humoristic way. I that sense, the movie don’t do perfect justice to these wonderful, creative people who have been written to play their funny or perhaps romantic parts in the comedy. In other words, the real historical characters shown in the movie are actually both fictional and real at the same time. Their roles, ways of behaving, their human relationships, and the contents of their discourses are mostly fictional and true to the genre, not so much true to their personal history or doings, but nevertheless, I could loosely call that specific genre Fiction art.
In my forthcoming book I deal with real scientists and artists, based on what we know about them, through various sources, about their achievements, real events and episodes in their lives, pains and joys, trying to respect the content of their domains in science and arts. Of course, I take liberties and this makes it especially challenging to consider what I believe is the genre of my book: Fiction science. The question remaining is this – because of the way I have created the events in my book: are they at all different from what Woody Allen has done in the movie, the comedy?
A definition for Fiction science
Fiction science stories are different from Science fiction in that they always aim at giving the earned credit to the historical scientists, when giving them roles in a fictional context, a story. Fiction science writer tries his/her best to keep every fictional event, episode, and line spoken historically, if not necessarily verbally or even geographically, a honest reality what is known about the historical characters depicted.
Fiction science can include fully fictional characters, events, episodes and spoken lines. The author builds his story, as well as possible, so that the fictional characters interact with the real ones in a way that respects the known factual history, any documents, articles, or other sources concerning the characters having a real and known background.
Why would Fiction science, as defined in this way, be interesting at all or different from other historically grounded stories? Would it only become a kind of a loose, true, but an academic exercise of one or more biographies in the same story?
A story, fitting perfectly in the above definition of Fiction science includes real historical characters, some well known and some less so. The fictional characters can – not necessarily – interact with the real ones, but whenever it happens, the lines spoken, the ways of behaving and other factors related to the historical persons, reflect the reality in a compelling way, allowing creative expressions and interpretations, in other words, without destroying the writer’s freedom of expression and his imagination, but so that it does not give, intentionally, a false picture of a real character.
Interestingly, in Fiction science there is an unlimited number of life events and episodes where historical figures can be presented and about which we know very little. In a formal sense, writing Fiction science is a creative, projection of story-telling on the world of science and the life of scientists. Sometimes, Fiction science novels might even evoke real questions worth while studying – today.
April 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
This time I’ve included several Finnish texts in this post in order to refer my FB friends here for links and details and not to crowd the FB pages too much with the related material. But the story behind all this is worth a few words – and there are a few English texts as well as you can see from below. The story:
I have written my critical comments on the current Finnish higher education system, presented them openly, not insulting anybody in person, arguing for my experiences, views and observations on the university system and its evident problems and failures. My critical texts have all appeared on the frontlines of the Finnish media and channels, like in our leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, for example (which has not been interested to publish – as special columns – some of my texts).
You would expect that such an express and repeated activity in criticizing the system would result in numerous interested contacts from the higher education management or at least from people in higher education offices or if not that then at least minimally from your own university, faculty or department. The reality?
No!No! and Ei! Practically total official silence! If I were a simple or even a complex fool, with no academic background, you could understand this. But I have a respected academic history as the Dean (the only psychologist in that position ever) of the largest faculty in Finland, numerous manager roles, even today at UH, work as an advisor for a Stanford research program, and some of my work has even occurred in Nature (long time ago) J. My blog (this one) is quite innovative and I have had numerous high-class international contacts, collaboration and talks in big firms in Silicon Valley. So, I’m a relatively sane academic and would expect some interaction. I know, of course, that I have a difficult message.
Well, to tell the truth – I don’t want any such contacts and communication right now. I have inspiring, creative stuff on my mind and on my desk. So, I have decided to stop this critical writing after one more article on an innovative (vitality-based) higher education system model-paper gets finished and published somewhere. (Note on 10th August 2016): I have still continued some public writing as I was invited to join Saimaa Summit 29th August 2016 and give a talk there on these matters and where we considered these problems in front of an influential local people… But it is time to move asap to other direction). But for you, my young and even older colleagues, working in the system, building it and making it happen – wake up! (I’m retired) There is something scary in this attitude of those responsible for running your education system, which is a significant part of your life and passions. Don’t let silence lead to disasters as it is doing now!
As a result of these writings I have never been seriously contacted by my own university or faculty or received an invitation to tell more and present the case at a relevant (or any other, for that matter) forum, nobody from the ministry of education, practically total official silence everywhere. Except: I’ve received a number of private communications in FB and through my email, telling their individual stories, experiences and encouraging me to continue. And I’ve been invited to serve as a mentor to some young scientists. Which has been an exceptional joy.
I admire Matti Alahuhta, a real exception, the famous Finnish leader (ex-Nokia, Kone, now EK) who has invited me twice for a serious and inspiring discussion on some of the topics – and offering a lunch J He is the only one during about 7-8 years of my open and active criticism on these matters. And of course, as you can see from the last parts of the list below, I’m not only criticizing but also presenting a number of ideas and suggestions for a better system, at many levels
What is happening to the Finnish academia, that is expected to be open for discussion and criticism?? Are people afraid? Are the managers tired and overloaded? Does the system really suck?
First, here are some general thoughts on how I think about the life of a scientist in a university context – it also explains why I’m so strongly against the current higher education management system. I have given a talk on this to some of the people outlining Aalto performance metrics in 2010 – with very little success and then to colleagues at Stanford. I’ve made only some minor changes to the text captions: Life_of_a_scientist
Here are the articles I’ve written on these topics and some quotations from them:
Paikallista elinvoimaa korkeakouluista – nyt! (It-Savo, 10.8. 2016)
“Näkyvissä ei ole vuosikausiin toimijoita, jotka muuttaisivat kehityksen suunnan. On aika toimia korkeakoulujen vaikutuspiirissä ja niiden lähipaikkakunnilla. Lähtökohdaksi voi ottaa juuri ne paikallisesti arvokkaat tekijät, joita maan korkeakouluhallinto ylenkatsoo. Korkeakoulujen parjattu hallintomallikin tarjoaa viisaalla johtamisella ja yhteistyöllä uusia mahdollisuuksia — joita on vähemmän osattu hyödyntää.”
Korkeakoulut tuovat elinvoimaa koko Suomeen (Kaleva 7.6. 2016)
“Korkeakoulujen strategiapeli ja kamppailu hupenevista voimavaroista rapauttaa tieteenaloja ja yliopistoja Suomessa. Uudenlaisia alueellisia, taloudellisia ja kulttuurisia sekä muita kansallisen vahingon ensioireita ilmenee jo ja on pelättävissä, että tämä kehitys syvenee.”
Korkeakoulujen hallitukset pettivät odotukset. (TS 1.4. 2016)
“Hallituksiin ei siis ole onnistuttu tuomaan vaikuttavaa talousosaamista, ne eivät ole hoitaneet yhteiskuntasuhteita odotetulla tavalla eivätkä ne ole edistäneet yliopistolaisten vaikutusmahdollisuuksiakaan.”
Työttömät tohtorit ovat kansallinen häpeä. (HS 2.1. 2016)
”Tohtoreiden työllistyminen ja elämässä selviytyminen eivät virallisessa Suomessa näyttäydy erityisongelmana. Korkeakoulujen strategiapelien tai apurahaongelmien vuoksi työttömiksi jääneet huippuosaavat tohtorit kokevakin ”kaiken maailman dosenttien” hylkiökohtelun.”
Perceptions of higher education – Finnish drama. (Finnishnews. 2.2. 2016)
“Some believe that we will reach the top of the world science. Some doubt it. My question is, what if we reach the top in a haphazard field, what good do we then gain as a nation?”
Suomen korkeakoulupolitiikan strategia on vahingollinen. (Image 2, 2015)
”On syytä pelätä, että näin tosiasiassa heikennetään kansallisen osaamisen perustaa ja kykyä reagoida ennakoimattomiin tieteen haasteisiin. Samalla suomalaiset ja korkeakoulut etääntyvät maailman merkittävistä kysymyksistä.”
Tohtorien työttömyys rapauttaa osaamispohjaa. (HS 12.10. 2014, Krista Lagus in kanssa)
Tiedeyhteisö on hiljaa. (HS 2.3. 2013)
“Korkeakoulu-uudistus hiljensi yliopistojen sisäisen kritiikin.”
Korkeakoulujen henkilöstö on kriisissä. (HS 9.5. 2012)
”Yliopistojen hallinnonuudistus on epäonnistunut pahasti ja saattaa aiheuttaa suomalaiselle innovaatioympäristölle merkittävää vahinkoa.”
Suomen Akatemian rooli olisi syyt uudistaa. (HS 7.4. 2011)
”Kapea huippuyksikköpolitiikka voi mennä muutenkin pahasti metsään. Sen toimintamallien tuloksena Suomeen ei ole kehittynyt kannustavaa arviointitapaa, joka tukisi laaja-alaista kansallista tutkimusrintamaa.”
Re-think higher education strategy for 2020/2030.
(Oivallus-hanke/EK 8.2. 2011)
“It is beyond comprehension to see that nothing is being done to stop this: a clear majority of researchers and teachers in our universities see the present management model as a nightmare, disaster and a floppy (see the recent review by Tieteentekijät ja Professoriliitto and the article by J.P. Roos in Tieteessä tapahtuu 6/2010, ss. 43-46).”
Not only criticism but also new and fresh ideas and thinking:
Millaista korkeakoulupolitiikkaa Suomi tarvitsee: Elinvoimainen korkeakoulupolitiikka koko maan hyvksi (26.4. 2016 Image, together with prof. Markku Wilenius)
Here we outline a novel, higher education model built on the strength of geographically local but also global networking principles. Its aim is to guarantee a distributed, wide-spectrum cultural, scientific and economical vitality in Finland.
Perceptions of the network capital of a small country (26.3. 2016 Finnishnews)
“A widely distributed university system has a significant national impact if it lives on the following two simple principles in its research, education and local interaction.”
Päätöksenteon, innovaatioiden ja oppimisen tulevaisuus. (Kanava 23.10. 2015 yhdessä Timo Hämäläisen kanssa)
“Uudet oivallukset, tieteelliset läpimurrot ja radikaalit innovaatiot syntyvät yhä useammin usean eri alan tietojen luovista yhdistelmistä. Tämä edellyttää tiivistä vuorovaikutusta toisiaan täydentävien alojen asiantuntijoiden kesken. Debatin sijaan tarvitaan dialogia, analyysien oheen eri tiedonaloja yhdisteleviä synteesejä.”
What are we good for: Challenges of education in Finland (Radical renovation of education, together with Markku Wilenius, report to Sitra, not published 1.8. 2014)
Siiloutunut Suomi voisi oppia Piilaakson yhteistyöstä (Ossi Kuittisen ja Markku Wileniuksen kanssa, Te 22.4. 2013)
Ecosystems of Triple Collaboration (Helice Vol. 2. Issue 3.)
“Guidelines for collaboration project, 1-7,
- Establish firm economical and spiritual ground for basic research that is not threatened by economically successful external partnering activities. This is an absolute demand. Applied research can and must make profits relatively fast. Its economical and human time constants are significantly shorter than in ambitious basic research …2. …7.“
University-Business-Government Collaboration: From institutes to platforms and ecosystems
Triple Helix J. 2 (2015) Springer.
” Experiences and learning lessons from small-scale, university-business-government collaboration cases are described and used as supporting knowledge for the hypothetical, bottom-up type of collaboration model.”
Professori arvostelee: Aalto-yliopisto unohti yritykset. (Te 12.10. 2011)
”Yritysjohtajat ja ulkopuoliset jäsenet eivät mitenkään pysty näkemään, mitä yliopistolla tapahtuu”, Nyman sanoo. ”He ostavat hallintobyrokraattien retoriikan, koska eivät oikeasti tunne tieteen tekemistä.”
March 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
I sent this as a blog text to Huffington post but they did not respond indicating (as they tell on the site) that they were not interested in it. But I see the story as quite revolutionary thinking and thought my own blog can still distribute it to those interested. Of course there is a lot to do in this field, globally and I’m not a technology expert on this. But if this is valuable thinking, someone will find it anyway. So:
Imagine that our Fords, BMWs, and Toyotas and their electric and hydrogen versions – instead of having only a low or even a zero CO2 emission – would actually fight the climate change by removing CO2 from the air? The car on the road and in park with its engine running would be transformed from a climate change threat to a global asset and virtue in protecting the atmosphere. “You cannot do that! There is no such technology! Cities are crowded already!” are the expected comments to such an unorthodox idea. But the thought experiment offers new fuel for thinking about the nature of human mobility.
Cleaning the air from CO2
Removing CO2 from the air is a fresh, inspiring dream as the MIT report tells us, but not an unrealistic one. Scientists are imaging and experimenting with novel ways to transform CO2 to valuable materials such as carbon nanofibers for industrial uses. Quite recently, Bill Gates invested in a new system for sucking CO2 from the air and transforming it to harmless carbonates. The global pressure to succeed in these innovations is almost as high as in fighting cancer. No surprise then that there is an incipient trend to imagine and work on revolutionary methods that actually clean the air and the environment, instead of just preventing pollution.
Amazing technologies aim at protecting our environment. A prototype bikini, designed by the engineers at UC Riverside cleans the seawater from various pollutants that reach the sea, cf. Huffpost Science, 10/2/2015, “This Bikini Of The Future Cleans The Ocean As You Swim”. Another invention from University of Sheffield and the London College of Fashion offers air cleaning clothing that removes nitrogen oxides from the air – about the same amount produced by the average family car each day! Then, a research team from China (Shan Gao et al., 2016) published compelling new research results in Nature:
“A new material made from microscopic layers of cobalt can convert carbon dioxide gas into formate – a fuel that can be burned with no toxic byproducts and used as a clean energy source.”
It is time to take take a second look at the future roles of cars and other transportation vehicles in this, including the potential of the self-driving cars.
Cars can be a threat and an asset
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in US, the CO2 produced by human activities originates from electricity (37%), transportation (31%), and industry (15%). In transportation the “on-road vehicles” produce overwhelmingly more CO2 than other forms of transportation, e.g. on-road vehicles: 1,442.7 Teragrams of CO2 vs. aircrafts: 148.7 . In EU Cars are responsible for 12% of total EU emissions of carbon dioxide and the law requires that the new cars do not emit more than an average of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2015.
We can see cars on the road, having zero CO2 emission like Tesla and Nissan Leaf (EVs) and even the hydrogen powered Toyota Miral. But the critics, referring to the life cycle analysis of EVs, know that almost half of their CO2 emissions come from the manufacturing and mining of the raw materials of the batteries and from the primary energy sources utilized for making these cars. These energy sources – coal, nuclear, wind – vary considerably around the world and depend on the total energy demand.
Opinions differ on how to exactly estimate the total burden on the environment caused by the production, waste processes and the energy sources, but there is no doubt that the big picture is problematic. Nevertheless, a fair question remains – what if we could make air-cleaning cars capable of removing CO2 from the air? Would it be possible to aim at a car manufacturing model where it is obligatory for any car maker to guarantee that its cars clean at least as much air from CO2 as its cars on the road and the manufacturing process together produce it? Could the charging of a car actually be connected with a grid of air-cleaning systems so that every time it is charged or refueled it would participate in the air-cleaning process.? This would mean a revolution in the way we think about transport, logistics, urban architectures and the health of our environments.
The alarming fact is, of course, that not only the increasing number of cars but the whole car manufacturing industry, including the production of electric and hydrogen powered cars, is producing excess amounts of CO2 right now and fast solutions are needed.
Even if the car industry and the road traffic would be effectively cleaning the air, many would still resist this development because it crowds the roads, cities and public spaces. More cars would remain a genuine nuisance and the cities and motorways cannot take more than already now dominate the scarce public spaces. Many cities have made these long-lasting decisions to provide space for pedestrians, public transport and biking.
However, it is not realistic to assume that cars could be removed from the planet within the next thirty years. It is a long time in developing new technologies and it is highly likely that the developing economies will have more cars when the entering new middle class enjoys the fun and comfort of driving and owning a car. Globally, the situation is becoming serious as indicated by the health-threatening pollution in Delhi, where a driving-ban has been issued to get a million cars off from the roads. Many think that it is not even closely enough
The International Transport Forum has indeed estimated that the number of motor vehicles in the world, being now 1.2 billion will be roughly 2.5 billion by 2050. So, even if we try to limit car use, diminish the car ownership, design self-driving cars and their traffic environment, we should still think about cars also as assets in fighting climate change. The question remains, what would be the optimal strategy in preventing the gloomy future of CO2 emissions? We need a step-by-step, evolutional and creative thinking with a clear goal in mind.
Future of nomadism
People will always be moving and commuting even when the best VR systems have matured so much that information sharing, collaboration and even social manufacturing have become everyday practices. We want to get together, touch and hug each other, feel the closeness, and share the physical presence and participation at work, entertainment and in any human relationships. When commuting becomes fast, easy, cheap and acceptable, people can adopt new roles as modern nomads, different from their classic predecessors who had to move from one place to another. The future nomads can arrange their model of life and living according to their values – in the seamless world of virtual communication and physical mobility – while contributing to the clean air.
December 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
The amazing advances in behavioral genetics and personal genome analysis have taken most of us by surprise: you can purchase a profile of your personal DNA and even receive reports on your health-related risk factors – with a price less than a cheap smart phone. While there are still a number of serious problems and limitations in such tests and we have to be careful with any of their simplifying interpretations, they will surely improve and more is to come, fast.
A parallel technological and sw progress has occurred in the design and implementation of computer games, both entertaining and serious games. It is time for these two amazing, but only apparently distant developments to meet and make possible something wonderful. This is only a short conceptual note on combining game and gene technologies to achieve it:
Computer games where each game character has a specific personal genome, real, theoretical or imaginary! Such games would have immense entertaining and educational potential. The games could be used for running complex and even massive scientific simulations to study, for example, the impact of specific human genome features on human behaviors in specific game worlds and plays.
Such games could also shed light on the interaction of the individual genome with any of the virtual environments where they are played. And of course, time is a flexible variable in such games so that a number of growth, evolutionary, mutation, gene expression, and any other developmental factors can be modeled and studied. Anything that the gene and behavioral genetic scientists can imagine can be implemented as a computer game. Here are some further examples of this huge potential the gene games can offer for science and entertainment and why not also for personal self-knowledge and learning:
Imagine games where either the personal genome of the player or the genome of the characters, which the player controls have personalized genetic, hereditary or environmental background. The genome can be as realistic as is possible based on current research data or it can be just theoretical or imaginary. And of course, all other characters in the specific game world have their backgrounds as well. There would be a lot for new kind of operators to do in integrating science and game data, perhaps even offering open platforms for this.
The specified and implemented gene/environment/interaction factors affect the capabilities, tendencies, vulnerabilities or whatever personal characteristics of each gamer. However, because games can be massive, it becomes also possible to follow the consequences of certain gene pools or types of genome in any such large scale development – and in any game world. But of course, it is also possible to follow individual behaviors and its consequences of such genetically profiled individuals, real, theoretical or imaginary. We can test our own exaggerated genes, for example
Imagine further, that computer gamers join an open project like the Personal Genome Project (http://www.personalgenomes.org), where they offer their personal genome data for the scientists to study and follow them in any of their preferred or perhaps even specifically designed games. Only imagination sets the limits to this approach and we all know the huge global number of players today.
Why I write on this? Well, already for 2-3 years I have tried to get some individual game world people to get excited on this but has met very little genuine interest and fascination with what I’ve been truly excited about ever since 2010. But then just yesterday, I had a wonderful Xmas (very long) lunch with friends on the 11th Dec, invited by a friend, Ernst Grönblom and one of the people present happened to have a strong funding background in gene-related health businesses. His genuine excitement and encouraging attitude made me write this now and share it with my readers. I have not made a thorough literature analysis on this topic, so if this is nothing new, then I know that at least I’m in the same boat, sailing towards new horizons.
Below is an inspirational quotation from the Personal Genome Program (see the link above). Only “Games” are missing there.
“The answers to many fundamental questions about basic human biology, our experiences as individuals, and our history as a species will be illuminated by better access to large datasets that contain many human genomes tied to other forms of personal information, such as medical history and physical traits. Thus far, only a handful of individuals in the world have been extensively sequenced and studied. The PGP aims to change this by giving individuals a platform to share their genome, health and trait data.”
August 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
Dreams carry mysterious creative powers. I even wonder if we actually need dreams to open our minds, to make us aware of things and thoughts that we simply neglect or forget when awake. Sometimes the dreams are impossible for us to understand and often they are totally out of this (known) world. But they are never meaningless and can offer surprising insights like the one I had last night. I was lucky enough to remember it and share the idea from my dream. Coming from the science, technology and business world – where being right is the thing – I’m not surprised that I had to be asleep in order to get this right.
On learning the right stuff
The Internet is crowded with excellent talks, presentations, MOOCs, and other university courses that teach us how things are, what is the right or best way to think about them, what works, what is correct knowledge and stuff. We can immerse ourselves in the world of abundant videos and admire the wonderful, convincing, admirable scientists, businessmen and other thinkers who have solved difficult problems and can now offer us ever better knowledge.
TED talks are a perfect example of this flow of the good and right knowledge, sharp and original thinking, perfect solutions and their fascinated and mesmerized audiences. We learn wonderful things from the masterminds of such talks and texts, their logic and creativity and the ways to deal with complex problems. Especially we can follow their passion, exceptionally productive skills, and ability to think and solve the most intriguing and significant problems. Many seem to think now that this is the way, through the Internet we will learn in the future, by following the best brains in how they can be right in their knowing.
Dream come true and false
But this is not what my dream told me. Instead, in my dream last night, I realized how extremely valuable for a modern man it would be to closely and in detail observe how the mistaken scientists, politicians, other leaders, and artists have explained the world as they have thought about it. And how they have, nevertheless, been able to convince us or other audiences to believe and trust what they have said and shown.
Here I don’t mean the fraudulent people who just want to deceive, persuade, and manipulate us while knowing what they are doing. In my dream the main figures were the scientists, politicians, journalists and activists who seriously believed – and “knew”, just like their audiences did – that they were right and wanted the audience to understand the object of their thinking in the same, correct way. They did this by following all the best rules of logical argumentation, etiquette and style of presentation. But they were just wrong. This should not surprise us at all since we know, how the sciences continuously develop and old science truths turn into wrong or false.
What would we gain from being able to observe such erroneous presentations and moments of unjustified persuasion?
Knowing for a fact that someone has been proven wrong and being able to follow such a talk is not a common privilege. We don’t have TEDf talks (false TED talks). But with the exponentially growing number of videoed talks and discussions we are gaining more and more material where just this happens and TEDf actually becomes a possibility: we can follow in detail someone who is convinced to be right but has been proven wrong. We can even enjoy materials offered to us to know this.
It is an astonishing moment to follow such false talks and discussions. As a relatively recent example, take this video from the year 2003 on Alan Greenspan, one of the worlds most influential economists of his time, previous Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States. He admits being wrong in his assumptions – and after doing that his earlier talks acquire a totally different meaning and significance.
If we would know beforehand that a talk or an article is wrong or false we learn a number of new and valuable things. First of all, we would know – by definition – that whatever these respected masterminds claim and conclude they are wrong in some or all of their claims. More importantly, we would also know that they actually did not have the right to make us believe in what they say: they should have warned us. Further, while observing their story telling and having this pre-knowledge we could relate everything they say or argue to this knowing that they are not right. We could even follow with a different eye the way they express themselves in persuading their audiences. Knowing this true knowledge background could totally change the way we listen to them, and how we would try to understand what they say and how they say it. It is indeed educational for us to recognize this special, critical way of listening because more often than not we face such situations in today’s media.
By listening and following talks that have once been the truth but have since been proven false, we can learn the following:
We learn in detail how false or erroneous data is taken as the solid ground against which the rest of the data is then interpreted and otherwise used.
We learn how wrong or biased deductions are made and how superficially right or promising consequences are actually suggested and forcefully promoted.
We learn how the passion of the respected masterminds is reflected in the way they make their case, use the evidence and treat other alternative explanations – or people disagreeing.
We learn how the recognized masterminds behave in their style and expressions – without any doubts – when they have been offered the chance to be the representatives of “the right thing”.
We learn how we, as the audience, react to such forceful acts of knowledge communication and how we are persuaded to believe what is false. We learn from ourselves.
But of course, we would learn that the false talks, articles and presentations are already here, everyday and all over the media and our world. They argue with false and unsustainable data and evidence, trying to convince us on how things really are and making us uncomfortable that we don’t know better. But we don’t know who they are and where – yet.
We are floating on the waves of the modern and future knowledge and technology society and the pressure to advance, gain, go further, to innovate. We are forgetting how valuable it is to learn from the suggestions and claims that are simply wrong and especially to follow the most prestigious and leading actors persuading us. In science, at its best, this has not been totally forgotten but often it is buried under the not-so-sexy practice of theory-hypothesis formation and the processes of confirmation and falsification. But even there lurk the beasts of modern science pr and media visibility that invites scientists to forget the value of the false claims – or hypotheses: https://gotepoem.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/h0-heroes-and-h1-fairies-among-us/ But we or our children will see the future videos when it is already know they are wrong.
June 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
Imagine buying a car, being really serious and excited about it, intending to get one as soon as possible. Or – imagine that you are just dreaming of buying one. We all know how stimulating it is to get started and to be engaged with the planning and eventual buying process. It is a personal and often a family adventure.
Then make a quick test and see how well the search engines understand you and your excited mental mode – your willingness to buy something wonderful and now! Try telling it to the best search engines.
Try putting “Intend to buy a car” to Google or Yahoo search. I was inspired to do this quick experiment when reading the exciting story about Yahoo: “Marissa Mayer and the fight to save Yahoo!” by Nicholas Carlson (2015). The book tells how the search engine competition is a continuous challenge to Yahoo and I though that my ideas might help them. I even tried to send a note to them but no luck in making this contact. So, I explain my motivations here.
Visiting Stanford I had some extra time to run a miniature experiment. In Figure 1 you can see the screen capture from the Google search and wonder – what are these algorithms thinking about my motivations and intentions, why don’t they care? (well, they have no interest whatsoever in my or your internal world, they just want to record your ‘clicks’). It is the mantra of today to claim that with Big Data they predict your behavior. But this is just nonsense. Most of the time they cannot do that and Big Data systems are impotent.
In the search outcomes shown you can immediately see that they indeed are very sensitive to “buying” in any of its forms and they also get hooked to direct quotations like “intend to buy” etc. But these quotation matches can occur for any context and it does not help us in any way, the search gets totally lost and irrelevant to your present intentions and life in general. The list of search results (mistakes in buying, leasing vs. buying, bargaining etc) looks like the search engine was searching data for another robot, not a passionate, intentional and dynamic human being. Big mistake. The search engines are non-human creatures that hate dynamic human life. They have no interest in what you as a thinking, feeling and intentional individual might have on your mind.
Contrary to what the masterminds behind the search engines and especially their marketing people claim – the algorithms do not know you or your real dynamic life at all. They only have their precious models of it as my colleague Hannu Tuomisaari so eloquently describes.
Then I repeated the minitest with Yahoo! and the results were quite the same, even more straightforward, but at least it found a site interested in my intentions, Toluna, but even that was not interested in my personal case in order to help and support me.
In short – the search engines seem to think that you are interested in finding shops (it is true, quite often), reading other buyers comments (perhaps, perhaps not), getting guidance for buying (maybe, maybe not), or learn about statistics (surely not).
It is by no means surprising that this happens because the engines are guessing what you might be looking for and they do not want to ask about your acute motivation or mental state, they think it is not informative or that it is not very practical to ask for such knowledge. Many seem to think that it is not wise to trust people when they tell about their intentions. What a mistake!
Last, imagine another very human case: you are in a pressing need to buy car, for one reason or another. Next, tell this to Yahoo! or Google. In Figure 3. you can see the results of Google. No surprise that it has no understanding whatsoever of your current state of mind and instead it teases you with information about cost vs. value, what every sucker (!) should know, a flowchart even. We all have our own “musts” and when such a situation exists we have our own constraints – for some it can be time, for other costs. If I were a car dealer paying for these adverts in Google I would be worried: why do they miss a motivated customer. Perhaps we could have a service that could be just for them? There is no way to tell that to the passionately searching customer.
Well, we all know what are our own personal motivations. In case of “must buy” we might have a time limitation, for example (I’m too busy, cannot go to a shop) and we can start looking for “buying service”, perhaps even find a sales rep coming to out home with a candidate car or two. How do I express this need in the search field? “Buy car visit home” does not understand me. “Buy car xx”? Well, surely after some text work we get what we want but is this the best a search engine could do?
Of course these are complicated situation for the mechanical search engines to decipher. But as a teasing end to this, of course I do have human-centric ideas and concepts to solve these problems, but that is another story. The background thinking to this can be found from my earlier blogs on the Internet of Behaviors: https://gotepoem.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/internet-of-behaviors-ib/,
and especially on the value of intention knowledge: https://gotepoem.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/the-psychology-behind-internet-of-behaviors-ib/
I sent an inspiring note already half a year ago to Yahoo, but maybe I had the wrong email address that I found with my search engine?
May 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
What if I would suggest that it is possible to provide a 100% secure way of storing your data and in a way that the operator itself cannot read or reveal the data it is storing – even in front of any legal or other threat?
For example, the recent eBay episode where their user data (user names, passwords, addresses etc http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/21/us-ebay-password-idUSBREA4K0B420140521) were stolen would not worry you at all because you could be sure that even if they had all the data in their customer data storage, yours included, they could not find and indentify your data. You could sleep your nights well.
Further, what if you could decide on how various service providers in the net can collect data about you and your whereabouts? This will be possible with this same security solution where the operator simply does not know whose data it has and where exactly it is stored!
I’m lucky to work as the advisor for a project where such a (patented) system is on its way to the market, in various application and service forms. Of course it is an inspiring innovation challenge, but the most motivating ambition is to return the right to privacy to the individuals and to other actors who need protection, the right to own their personal data and the right to decide to whom they reveal it – or their identity. It is not only a matter of protecting our data, it is a profound human right and one of the most foundational requirements for true democracy as Pekka Pere, the chair of our company board has repeatedly emphasized. Sounds like science fiction? It is not.
The inflicted security neurosis
You don’t have to be a security pathologist to understand why people have lost their trust in data privacy. But it is even more surprising how firms and technology innovators alike express this same tendency to worry and helplessness. Having attended a few recent meetings and seminars on data security in Silicon Valley and in Finland I’ve been astonished by the lack of trust in the (near) future technology’s ability to solve the current security problems – once and for all. I know there are highly competent people and teams in the field, take a look at the Stanford University computer scientists, for example, but in general, most of the population and even computer professionals seem to suffer from a social helplessness syndrome in data security.
It is not long time ago when the first seriously dangerous computer viruses gave their wake-up call to individuals and public and private organizations alike. Then came the targeted attacks like the Stuxnet worm in 2010 – only a year after the publication of the famous book “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez, where he painted a black fictional landscape for the worst future possibilities in data crime. Only quite recently we learned from Wikileaks, NSA, and Snowden that no data is safe today.
Last, the FBI and the US Government, in 2014, made their call by ensuring that even a data service operator, with good motivations, cannot offer secure data storage or mail systems to their eager and worried clients: the Government forced the operator to reveal their keys to access the data of interest, actually any ‘suspicious’ data – and in this way, made the trust-based business of LavaBit impossible in USA.
It is time to turn around the security question and formulate it anew:
Now that a perfectly secure data storage system becomes available, protecting your data so that none can hack it from its storage site and the system does not reveal your identity, what can – and what should we do with such a service and application? My prediction for a rather near future is that we will have to relearn the ways of protecting our data and identity but also to learn new ways to express our trust in the world of the virtual. Traditional protection systems are needed as before but the security game as a whole will change and people and firms will benefit from it. This will touch a number of digital service providers in all sectors of public and private life when they cannot take it for granted that they have automatic access to our data.
Hence, here are some of my first thoughts about the consequences of this change in security services and everyday practices. I believe that once we have our products on market and the potential customers – firms, public or private organizations or individuals – have learned to trust the new security tools and services, a game change is inevitable. The team with which I work will not be the only ones trying to ignite it; the markets have been ripe for some time already.
We deserve a 100% security
We all benefit from the services offered by Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Pinterest, you name it – in exchange for the personal data we offer them to be used according to any of their business models. Visiting Stanford in 2010 and discussing some of these issues with my always inspiring colleagues there, I started thinking about a possibility to found a data & knowledge broker who could interfere with this situation – what I see partly as an unjust arrangement – and to start taking care of our personal benefits and protecting us when needed.
No such brokers have appeared so far, and then it happened that Manu Rautakoura – a friend and a security business pro, with similar ideas – started discussing this theme with me openly over FB. Finally, we ended up on a better idea related to Manu’s and his colleagues’ work: they had already started a most ambitious and innovative development work on personal data security – the 100% security concept I have mentioned above. We realized that their data and identity protection scheme could become one of the first significant steps towards a new arrangement of the secure, perhaps even dynamically anonymous personal data markets of the near future.
Personal data is our true currency, stronger than bitcoin
The most important data asset we have as individuals or firms is the knowledge of the security status of our data, be it family finances, other economical data and documents, private life episodes, inventions, work in progress, customer documents, health, whatever. Traditional computer security systems are surprisingly weak in providing this asset to us in a trustworthy form and it seems like people have just adapted to this unhappy situation – while being increasingly more worried about their data privacy and security.
It is a serious learning experience for anyone to find out how important it is to have the right to our own data so that it is not used against us in an unjust way. Public and private organizations alike can sometimes put us in a situation where by owning our data and using it according to their whatever business or service models, they can put an unjust pressure on us, affect and limit our behaviors – without offering any alternative solutions to us. There are a number of asymmetric transaction situations on the personal data markets of which well-known examples are the cases where a person’s credit history data is not perfect for reasons the person himself knows but the companies do not care to note. Similar problems occur when a person’s health-related precondition allows insurance companies to deny insurance services.
Most of us have nothing against telling the whole and honest health story when asked by a reliable company or organization, willing to offer its help and to use data for that purpose. But if the company does not have any service offer to its customers who are in trouble – and by that can only cause extra harm to them – then they do not deserve the right to access that personal data neither. It should always be a two-ways street of trust. Actually, the patient or any customer offers valuable capital, the data and identity, to the serving firm, which can then easily turn it into economical capital.
Knowing the true security status
The data security firms have not succeeded in helping us know our own security status and they try to teach us to trust when they say that “your virus defense has been updated” or that “we have a secure system”. When new threats occur, they have “updated their protections systems and services”. We need and deserve more: we simply have to know when our savings and the documents related to them are really safe and that nobody can access our private data.
The knowledge of the security level of our own data is not only a nice service or luxury (or a burden to the security provider) – it is the most influential knowledge that can guide us in managing our valuable assets of life. Anything can happen in the world and cause problems but we need to know exactly what is the security status of our possessions (e.g. customer data if we are a firm, personal data as individuals) in the storage systems we rely on. Our company should be able to provide that level of security within six months from now.
As shown by the scary example on how FBI and the US Government acted in the security case we now know that even the operators cannot guarantee complete security in USA – unless they are offered a suitable technology to do that. Of course, USA is not alone in the security battle and on these problematic markets, and we should better know the related practices in China, Russia and many other countries, small and large alike.
Better UI for data security awareness
Data security and privacy protection systems are perhaps the worst UI examples within the ict applications industry today, especially considering how vital they are to their user. Hence, I had an extra delight to be early involved with our security concept development and for once, could have a word early on how to build the UI so that it supports everything that the tools and the systems have been built for – to help the people and firms in knowing their security status, for real. I assumed the extra role as UI-concept designer for a totally new, simple and fresh way to help people in managing their own personal and identity security. This will appear on the systems to come.
What about cyber-criminals?
It is perhaps a wet dream of the cyber-criminals to have a 100% secure data storage and communication system – like ours – for storing any sensitive and criminal data. This being the fact of future we should again turn the question around: how can we involve people and help them provide secure ways to allow access to any of their data when they think it is relevant and beneficial for them or the society?
Then remain the serious questions of what to do when a cyber-criminal refuses to reveal the key to the criminal data or what does it mean when criminals have 100% secure ways of communicating and conducting their evil deeds? We do not have a solution to these problems now but we are convinced that whatever the solutions will be, they have to achieve the trust of the people who comply with such new arrangements. We will be developing these thoughts further and continue the discussion in the blog and in our coming Youtube videos.