Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
January, 19th 2009


“A butterfly flaps its wings in China, and sometime later a thunderstorm drenches Chicago . . .” These words open video below “The Tale of a Smarter Planet.” This is a story that touches upon aspects of so many of our lives as we enter into this era of change. The bottom line? We now have the tools to literally change the way the world works.

The challenges and opportunities ahead of us are far too large, various and inherently global for any government, industry or nation to tackle alone. It will take all of civil society to transform the way the world works. And the good news is, we can. This goes far beyond repairing the old economy. We can now prepare a new one, for the 21st century. Computational power is being put into things we wouldn’t recognize as computers — phones,cameras, cars, appliances, roadways, power lines, clothes. We are interconnecting all of this through the Internet, which has come of age. There is a tremendous mandate today for positive change, and this moment will not last forever. Let’s seize it — not simply to fix a flawed past, but to build a smarter future.


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What’s being described here is an emergent common IS layer supporting all infrastructure elements, a kind of meta-infrastructure which we call the “telestructure”. Potential e-productivity gains from re-engineering trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure components may rival those of the 1990′s as applied to e-commerce. Say 10-20% of total. Serious money.
This massive cross systems integration also creates new interdependencies that increase overall vulnerability to various types of interventions. The situation is compounded by vast systemic complexities that decrease system behavior predictability. search “complex adaptive systems”
Our point about all this is that each local community is a distinct combination of demographics, density, topology, etc. that demands a unique configuration of technologies and business models in conjunction with other local community policy priorities thus necessitating a locally-specific design.
While these complexities and interdependencies are barely understood at any level of government, it is still the primary responsibility of each and every local community to chart its own course. Plan or be planned.

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I agree that technology has the potential for really improving the world we live in and your film highlights many important ideas for doing so, but I can’t help but wonder if you are leaving out the really hard part of innovation within relatively mature systems, namely the social factors. For example, 99% of transport professionals favor congestion pricing but probably 99% of the general public opposes it (relatively) violently. The key is communications, a field which we technologists ignore to our peril. How about starting by showing your congestion pricing video during the Super Bowl?

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January 21, 2009
6:19 pm

That’s a good point…though I think one of the remarkable factors is the overwhelmingly broad adoption of the internet…in a couple years there will be about 2 billion people online. I know that lives another 4 billion in the dark…but still! And when you think about cheap net-connected devices like cell phones, well, the number of participants swells. Even so, we’ll have to make a conscious effort to include those who have little or no means by creating public avenues to the online collective that are free (or nearly free) to access. That’s gonna be a real (but addressable) challenge for societal leaders.

Posted by: Ethan McCarty
January 20, 2009
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Smart but I wonder how capacity to collaborate is limited? Will the digitally disenfranchised passively follow? Current events suggest that more than interconnectedness is required.

Posted by: David Wilkerson
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4:57 am

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