Web 1-2-3

Ushering In Web 3.0

The real cloud computing is not where we are today.

Utilizing infrastructure and apps on demand is only the beginning.

What IBM has emerging that is above the other cloud providers is the real deal, Watson, cognitive computing system.

In 2011, Watson beat the human champions of Jeopardy, today according to the CNBC, it is being put online with twice the power.

Using computational linguistics and machine learning, Watson is becoming a virtual encyclopedia of human knowledge and that knowledge-base is growing by the day.

But moreover, that knowledge can be leveraged by cloud systems such as Watson to link troves of information together, process it to find hidden meanings and insights, make diagnoses, provide recommendations, and generally interact with humans.

Watson can read all medical research, up-to-date breakthroughs in science, or all financial reports and so on and process this to come up with information intelligence.

In terms of computational computing, think of Apple’s Siri, but with Watson, it doesn’t just tell you where the local pizza parlors are, it can tell you how to make a better pizza.

In short, we are entering the 3rd generation of the Internet:

Web 1.0 was as a read-only, Web-based Information Source. This includes all sorts of online information available anytime and anywhere. Typically, organizational Webmasters publishing online content to the masses.

Web 2.0 is the read-write, Participatory Web. This is all forms of social computing and very basic information analytics. Examples include: email, messaging, texting, blogs, twitter, wikis, crowdsourcing, online reviews, memes, and infographics.

Web 3.0 will be think-talk, Cognitive Computing. This incorporates artificial intelligence and natural language processing and interaction. Examples: Watson, or a good-natured HAL 9000.

In short, it’s one thing to move data and processing to the cloud, but when we get to genuine artificial intelligence and natural interaction, we are at all whole new computing level.

Soon we can usher in Kurzweil’s Singularity with Watson leading the technology parade. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>The User-centric Web

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David Siegel has written a book called “Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web To Transform Your Business” (Dec. 2009).

The main idea is that businesses (suppliers) need to adapt to a new world, where rather than them “push” whatever data they want to us when they want, we (consumers) will be able to get to the information we want and “pull” it whenever we need it (i.e. on demand).

Siegel identifies three types of data online of which less than 1% is currently visible web pages:

  • Public Web—what “we normally see when searching and browsing for information online: at least 21 billion pages indexed by search engines.
  • Deep Web—includes the “large data repositories that requires their internal searches,” such as Facebook, Craigslist, etc.—“about 6 trillion documents generally not seen by search engines.”
  • Private Web—data that “we can only get access to if we qualify: corporate intranets, private networks, subscription based services, and so on—about 3 trillion pages also not seen by search engines.”

In the future, Siegel sees an end of push (i.e. viewing just the Public Web) and instead a new world of pull (i.e. access to the Deep Web).

Moreover, Siegel builds on the “Semantic Web” definition of Sir Tim Berners-Lee who coined the term in the 1990s, as a virtual world where:

  • Data is unambiguous (i.e. means exactly the same things to anyone or any system).
  • Data is interconnected (i.e. it lives online in a web of databases, rather than in incompatible silos buried and inaccessible).
  • Data has an authoritative source (i.e. each piece of information has a unique name, single source, and specified terms of distribution).

While, I enjoyed browsing this book, I wasn’t completely satisfied:

  1. It’s not a tug of war between push and pullthey are not mutually exclusive. Providers push information out (i.e. make information available), and at the same time, consumers pull information in (access it on-demand).
  2. It’s not just about data anymore—it’s also about the applications (“apps”). Like data, apps are pushed out by suppliers and are pulled down by consumers. The apps make the data friendly and usable to the consumer. Rather than providing raw data or information overload, apps can help ready the data for end-user consumption.

All semantics aside, getting to information on the web is important—through a combination of push and pull—but ultimately, making the information more helpful to people through countless of innovative applications is the next phase of the how the web is evolving.

I would call this next phase, the “user-centric web.” It relies on a sound semantic web—where data is unambiguous, interconnected, and authoritative—but also takes it to the next level, serving up sound semantic information to the end-user through a myriad of applications that make the information available in ever changing and intelligent ways. This is more user-centric, and ultimately closer to where we want to be.

>Internet, Anything But Shallow

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Over time, people have transitioned the way they predominantly get their information and learn, as follows:

1) Experiential—people used to learn mostly by doing—through their experiences, although these were usually limited in both time and space.

2) Reading—With the printing press, doing was supplanted by reading and information came from around the world and passed over from generation to generation.

3) Television—Active reading was upended by passive watching television, where the printed word “came alive” in images and sounds streaming right into our living rooms.

4) Virtuality—And now TV is being surpassed by the interactivity of the Internet, where people have immediate access to exabytes of on-demand information covering the spectrum of human thought and existence.

The question is how does the way we learn ultimately affect what we learn and how we think—in other words does sitting and reading for example teach us to think and understand the world differently than watching TV or surfing the Internet? Is one better than the other?

I remember hearing as a kid the adults quip about kids sitting in front of the TV like zombies! And parents these days, tell their kids to “get off of Facebook and get outside and play a little in the yard or go to the mall”—get out actually do something with somebody “real.”

An article in Wired Magazine, June 2010, called “Chaos Theory” by Nicholas Carr states “even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.”

Carr contents that the Internet is changing how we think and not necessarily for the better:

1) Information overload: The Internet is a wealth of information, but “when the load exceeds our mind’s ability to process and store it, we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections with other memories…our ability to learn suffers and our understanding remains weak.”

2) Constant interruptions: “The Internet is an interruption system. It seizes out attention only to scramble it,” though images, videos, hypertext, email, IM, tweets, RSS feeds, and advertisements.

3) “Suckers for Irrelevancy”: “The stream of new information plays to our natural tendency to overemphasize the immediate. We crave the new even when we know it’s trivial.”

4) “Intensive multitasking”: We routinely try to do (too) many things online at the same time, so that we are predominantly in skimming mode and infrequently go into any depth in any one area. In short, we sacrifice depth for breadth, and thereby lose various degrees of our ability in “knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection.”

While I think that Carr makes some clever points about the dangers of Internet learning, I believe that the advantages of the Internet far outweigh the costs.

The Internet provides an unparalleled access to information and communication. It gives people the ability to get more information, from more sources, in more ways, than they would’ve in any of the other ways of learning. We are able to browse and search—skim or dig deep—as needed, anytime, anywhere.

With the Internet, we have access to information that exceeds the experiences of countless lifetimes, our world’s largest libraries—and TV isn’t even a real competitor.

At the end of the day, the Internet is a productivity multiplier like no other in history. Despite what may be considered information overload, too many online interruptions, and our inclinations to multitasking galore and even what some consider irrelevant; the Internet is an unbelievable source of information, social networking, entertainment, and online commerce.

While I believe that there is no substitute for experience, a balance of learning media—from actually doing and reading to watching and interacting online—make for an integrated and holistic learning experience. The result is learning that is diversified, interesting, and provides the greatest opportunity for everyone to learn in the way that suits him or her best.

Moreover, contrary to the Internet making us shallower thinkers as Carr contends, I think that we are actually smarter and better thinkers because of it. As a result of the Internet, we are able to get past the b.s. faster and find what we are looking for and what is actually useful to us. While pure linear reading and thinking is important and has a place, the ability online of the semantic web to locate any information and identify trends, patterns, relationships, and visualize these provides an added dimension that is anything but shallow.