from the world's big
Computer: What was an Encyclopedia?
I already wrote once or twice about the mind change in our society that we are used to getting information or answers to our questions right now, anywhere we are. You don’t go to the book shelf anymore to pick the matching volume of your encyclopedia, and search for the keyword.
Gene Roddenberry did a pretty good job back in the days when he predicted in the Star Trek series that in the future we would just ask “Computer. What is XYZ?”. Just last week Google rolled out voice search and it seems to work quite well, actually. For standard phrases and questions at least. If I ask Google for my name I’ll get all sorts of witty and peculiar results whereas when you ask Google “Where is Paris?” you’ll get your results.
In general, it seems to be more natural for us to ask questions rather than searching for single keywords. With an encyclopedia you need to look for George Washington to find his birthday, with the web we can ask “When was George Washington born?” and get the answer right away.
Of course, the fact that people actually use the search engines to enter entire questions is not new in itself but it lead to an entirely new business model which then ended in the infamous content farms. The general idea was to write the answers to questions people ask most on search engines. Add some banner advertisements to the answers to monetize on them and look for the next question to answer. You might know classic sites like about.com or ehow.com. Over time those sites wanted to scale and hired tons of writers who often wrote answers on topics they were not experts in and thus the whole idea was compromised and turned in what we now call content farms.
Today, the notion and rightfully so for the majority of cases is that content farms like Demand Media are producing tons of low quality content every day. Doing so, they spam search results which lowers the experience of using Google. Google then answered with the “Panda update”, an algorithm change in the search engine itself f that “punishes” content farms or low quality content in general in order to bring up good search results to the top.
There are also discussions going on whether there should be regulations around so called ‘answer sites’ such as “How to peel a banana?”. Now, this seems to be as trivial as it gets and the text provided on the WikiHow page is not really gold standard. The video though is quite interesting and I have to say that I learned something new, and I will from now on peel my bananas as monkeys do. So, whereas I had intended to make a small joke around this question and demonstrate how ridiculous those sites were, I have to say even as trivial they are, this particular one makes a certain point. Hence, the discussion and also the adjustments to algorithms needed to be fairly nuanced.
All of the above brings me to Mahalo, a startup that recently pivoted from a human powered search engine into an education platform, at least according to its founder Jason Calacanis. The Panda update mentioned above cost Mahalo about 50% of its traffic which naturally has a significant impact on the revenue Mahalo generates through advertisement on the sites. On the other hand, the views of the Mahalo expert videos available on YouTube are constantly going up.
I conclude that Video answers seem to be the next step and you have to keep in mind that YouTube is actually the second biggest search engine on the planet, right after Google. So it is obvious that people use the search field on YouTube the same way as they do on Google, they type in questions when they are looking for an answer. Mahalo’s approach is very broad, as the tag line suggests you can “learn anything” from “What is the cap amount for gifting?” to “How to cut Broccoli”.
The newest addition to this space is Curiosity by the Discovery Channel. Similar to Mahalo, you get answers from experts whereas Curiosity is focused more on answering “Questions of Life”, and the site is very restrictive in selecting its experts. Otherwise, the idea is pretty much the same as Curiosity will answer the most popular questions in the different fields the Q&A site covers.
A service that takes another approach to the way people look for information is Qwiki “the information experience”. As you can imagine, producing videos for all the answers people have is quite a challenge from the logistics on the one side but also from the investment side. This is why Qwiki have built a platform that uses free content available on the Internet and curates it into slide shows which are accompanied by a computer generated voice. Critics say that Qwiki was nothing other than a Wikipedia read to me by a computer.
I am with the guys at Qwiki and feel that the experience comes to life on the iPad. I like watching the short Qwiki of the day to learn something new or to refresh it. And the thing is that it does not stop there. Each Qwiki is linked to a group of related topics and therefore you can dig deeper and deeper into a specific topic, sometimes ending at a totally different point from where you started. That’s the real power of such new encyclopedias, the more information and links are added to it, the further you will be able to explore topics and its relations to other fields.
Whereas the search for information often ends when you found the right answer in an encyclopedia or in the search results, those interlinked services, apps and platforms deliver answers more like starting points of a longer exploration. Content on its own can be OK, but only when content is tied to context it comes alive and can really grab our attention.
To close this post on a Star Trek note: you can install the LCARS Reader app on your iPad to get the Next Generation feeling when browsing the final frontier of the Internet. It’s not voice activated, though.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?