From July 2007

E-Brain Construct

Back in November 05 I posted about the concept of “Web 2.0” which was (and still is to an extent) the latest buzzword for something which is still pretty fuzzy and difficult to define. However, in my mind the underlying notion here of moving to a user centric model of content distribution, a shift in the way we navigate through information, and changes in the underlying program style (amongst other things) is merely another step to something much bigger…

The way I see it, a big part of the idea here is about collectively converting data into information which can be used to form knowledge about anything and everything (which is eventually perceived as wisdom). If we divorce the idea from the technological implementation then data conversion happens through the aggregation and integration of disparate, loosely-coupled, systems based on globally consistent standards. From this interconnected knowledge communities form.

To an extent we can already see this with services like Gmail, Flickr, YouTube, Digg, Wikipedia, and many more all leading the way with their own web-based applications which deliver/organise content based roughly around this concept; be it knowingly or not. Here content is no longer just sitting in a forgotten folder somewhere but becomes part of something more valuable and accessible.

This is all very good but as of yet there is no truly joined up experience which pulls all the elements together. Google is taking small steps towards this (e.g. email & IM integration, universal search…) but it’s still a long way from comprehensive. To try and get a better picture of it I’ve put together a fairly simplistic visualisation (GITS style!) of all the different components I envisage if we take things a step further:

This Work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Click image for larger version.

At the core lies an individuals “Personal Profile” – this is the hub of their digital self (an e-brain if you like) which contains all the connections to everything outside it. Along with connections it also provides an artificial intelligence (AI) to manage and archive everything past and present into a logically accessible format. It will also present information which may be of future relevance based on what it has learnt through the individuals usage history (EA). The individual chooses to select what content is private to them and what is publicly available to others (a multi-tiered system of filters).

Outside of the immediate profile are a number of [meta-] services which concern communication, rich media, organisation (I’m naming this ‘symatise’) and most importantly search (maybe others which I’ve not though of). These tie together digital assets both personal and public across the internet to form a coherent platform. Content is moderated (and optionally censored) based on your profile or collective/combined profiles. Content ownership would be based around a standard licence model (e.g. Creative Commons).

Just imagine a platform where you could search, cross-reference, publish, view… anything regardless of format or location. This is the epitome of everything, everywhere: On your computer, on your phone, on your iPod; in your brain? The way you interface is arbitrary and would constantly evolve… I could elaborate further but I think you get the point… the iPhone is a perfect example of how this is already becoming a reality, albeit a baby step towards it.

You might question Why would want all this? I see it as a way to cope with the increasing information overload we face every day in such an efficient way it takes most of the effort out of everyday information conversion/transfer. It makes finding, learning and understanding almost trivial and frees our minds to deal with other tasks.

Wont this make everyone dumb? Possibly if used in the wrong way. As with students copying & pasting content found through Google it all depends on how you use it. No doubt the system is open to abuse and complacency but such is the price of freedom. It is up to the end-user to govern themselves and those they are responsible for.

So there you have it – Good idea? Bad idea? Already here? SOA on steroids? …or have I just watched The Matrix one to many times? I’d be fascinated to hear what people think!


Preparing for my trip to South Korea next month and the recent exhibition I saw got me thinking about the incredible urban structures out there…

Rush Hour
© Trey Ratcliff

Rush Hour
© Rob K.

Seoul - Colorful Night Life
© Trey Ratcliff

One of the big things which attracts me to East Asia is the urban architecture of its mega-city agglomerations. High-rise, densely packed, chaotic, futuristic, sprawling, and littered with incomprehensible (to the non-native eye) neon typographic advertising they certainly evoke an other-worldly feel. This has been widely reflected in popular culture through films like like Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix (to name but a few) where the influences of these megalopoleis are plainly evident. Indeed, some areas of Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing are very sci-fi!

Some people theorise that eventually cities will expand so far that they will fuse together and form an ecumenopolis at either a continental or worldwide level! The idea of never being able to escape the city sounds like a nightmare to me but in some ways, especially for the less well off in some countries, it’s already a reality.

In the end the question must be asked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

South Bank

It’s been a bit of a slow weekend with some pretty terrible weather to compliment it. In between heavy rain and thunder storms I ventured out to the Global Cities exhibition at Tate Modern which despite not really being “art” per-say was actually quite good and informative. It looks at the changing faces of ten international cities, exploring each based on speed, size, density, diversity and form. Well worth a visit, if not in person then online.

Take Off

The magnificent London Millennium Bridge leading to St. Paul’s Cathedral, formally known as the “Wobbly Bridge” before the spoil-sports retrofitted energy dissipating dampers.

This is not a photo opportunity

Looks like the work of a certain Banksy (near Borough Market) – artist, vandal, or activist? I’ll let you decide!


In the UK you can be given an Anti-Social Behavior Order (ASBO) for being a social nuisance. I know a few people I wouldn’t mind awarding one 😉

If you can't read this you are too damn close to China

That’s all for now… as ever more photos in my Flickr stream – sorry to readers in China, the CCP are blocking Flickr image servers so I’m afraid you may not be able to see much. However, if you’re feeling rebellious you could try this.

中关村 – Beijing is Here

ZhongGuanCun - 中关村 - Beijing is Here V
© Nod Young

I came across this cool representation of Chinese text as vector typography on Virtual China. For those who are scratching their heads, the image contains three Chinese characters 中关村 “Zhong Guan Cun” (an area in Beijing) formed into a map of the area it represents – how ingenious! I enjoyed this even more so because Zhong Guan Cun is the crazy technology market area which I used to live next to:

“ZhongGuanCun – a place with unnumbered computers. You can buy a computer, or a set of, a pile of or a kilogram of computers. However, it is not that easy as you think because you need to see and ask rounds by rounds and shops by shops to hunt for the one you want. It just likes a physical torture that so tired you won’t want to go again.”

More of the Summer Palace & Lama Temple can be found in this Flickr set.

Information Overload

According to the ever wonderful Google Reader:

From your 53 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 3,302 items, starred 11 items, and shared 2 items.

That’s a heck of a lot of blog posts to consume in a month but if I only star a dozen or so (those that I feel are worth revisiting) the it’s only a tiny percentage which are of real use. In fact I usually scroll past the majority of articles and only stop to properly read those that attract my attention. This made me wonder about how information overload is becoming an increasingly difficult problem to cope with for the always-on, alway-connected generation. The internet is great for inquisitive minds but the sheer vastness of it is mind-boggling. Is it that desire for knowledge that will be the undoing of us? I would imagine before long, if not already, that people are going to end up in institutions for related disorders stemming from the minds inability to cope with everything we throw at it. Perhaps cyberization will be the only solution?

CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

Looks like the clever folks at CERN are already working on a prototype 😉

Le Tour de Anglais

This morning I went into town to watch the “Le Grand Depart” (the opening) of Le Tour de France which came to London this year for Stage 1 of the world’s best-known cycling race. Although it was predictably packed along the route in central London I managed to squeeze onto Tower Bridge and grab a few shots as the front pack went passed, somehow miraculously dodging each other and the hundreds of support vehicles.


Considering the terrible weather the UK has had the passed month it’s been quite an amazing day with bright skies and only the odd cloud.



That’s a lot of cyclists – how they manage to stay upright is beyond me!



There was a huge media and support presence but how many of them actually did anything more than get in the way of the riders I wonder… great spectacle anyway 🙂