Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Al Gore moment…Why Facebook Stories will change everything

Jay McBain
July 24, 2010

First of all, I will not claim to have invented the internet.

What I will claim is that I had a future vision in the late 90’s about the internet growing into an accumulation of all of human knowledge and experience. I called it the “Hierarchy of Wisdom”. In fact, I published a list of rules about the concept which I will paste at the end of this blog post.

Many people heard the story from me back in those days…it went something like this:

“Imagine for a moment that aliens land on earth thousands of years from now. What they find is a post-apocalyptic waste land with scarce remnants of the advanced society which once inhabited it. As they begin their investigation they find evidence of major cities. As they start to dig, they find artifacts of a past civilization, the most important being books and computers.”

What would these aliens learn about us when they spin the hard drives?
I envisioned two massively converged sources of data that would make up the hierarchy of wisdom. First was a huge database capturing all of human knowledge. My description (at end of blog) ended up being 99% accurate to what Wikipedia has become 10 years later.

My struggle was that this database, much like encyclopedias in book form, would be very structured, logical and unemotional. I used the example of “horses” – from the history, physiology, contribution to society, sporting use and dozens of other topics, the data would be complete – but yet, only half the story.

How do you complete the story of horses, and truly show the human condition?


If you read an emotional story about an 8 year old girl dying of leukemia and her lifelong dream was to ride a pony, would your perspective change on horses? What about the pioneers travelling west in the early 19th century and the reliance on horses pulling wagons and making it over dangerous mountains and terrain?

If you were to correlate the factual history of horses with stories that paint the human condition – you will have moved from knowledge to wisdom. If you successfully tie millions of other topics with the relevant stories, the breakthrough happens.

This week something remarkable happened. We just don’t know it yet.

When Facebook surpassed 500 million users it made a small side announcement that it
created a tool called “Facebook Stories”. With millions of people re-connecting, getting married, breaking up, notifying family members that they are alive after natural disasters, to committing crimes and taunting police, it is safe to say that Facebook has made a mark.

Although over 90 percent of the world population has never logged in, it still holds critical mass and is a statistically reliable representation for the “haves” of the planet.

Stories lead to biographies

Another concept I would explore with people ten years ago is the idea of how short life is. A simple question of how well you know your parents as compared to your grandparents or great-grandparents. Some people know more the others, but it is safe to say that familiarity usually ceases within only a few generations – perhaps 50 years. You may remember your great-grandparents names, where they lived and a couple of other stats, but other than some passed-down stories, you probably don’t know how they felt about things.

What if you could read a series of blogs, a diary, an auto-biography, or anything that would paint a picture of your great-grandparents? Of course, more than just reading, it would include audio, video, pictures and text. Now that we have mapped the human genome, this may complete the mystery. Perhaps some psychological things in your life could be explained if you understood your past – a great-great-aunt may have experienced the exact same scenario and you can relate.

This is what future generations can expect from us. This blog may be read by my great-great-great-etc grandchildren hundreds of years in the future. My Facebook story, combined with lifestreaming, blogs, tweets and even LinkedIn will be accessible for all time.

I believe this will be important – I just can’t imagine how or why yet.

Perhaps with my genetic makeup being what it is, I can understand my lineage much deeper and avoid mistakes that were made in the past. This could also lead to a better sense of self. Furthermore, what about a time when millions of these stories are accessible, searchable, even actionable?

This could be an evolutionary step.

All of human knowledge combined with millions (if not billions) of stories in the future. The top down and bottoms up linkage is mesmerizing and powerful.

Now, here is the Hierarchy of Wisdom, first published in 1999…2 years before Wikipedia and 11 years before Facebook Stories:

The journey to achieve wisdom begins with the following rules:

1. All knowledge is organized into hierarchies. At the highest level you have:
1. Philosophy
2. History
3. Science
4. Humanities
(Detail Level at end)

2. All topics, regardless of complexity, must be explained on one page.

3. Using a 'click through' concept, subtopics in the hierarchy will be accessible from the top-level page. These subtopics will also fit on one page.

4. Using the same concept as the 'six degrees of separation', focus will be put on minimizing the amount of clicks through the hierarchy to reach information.

5. This project will be public domain.
The definition of wisdom for purposes of this project:

"The accumulation of all thought, belief and knowledge of all humans past, present and future".

At the core of philosophy is the pursuit of the answer to the question "Why?" Without involving religion or science, the answer to the question - and the meaning of life is, quite simply, to have impact on others. Having impact on others changes the world around us and creates eternal life through memories.

The most effective way to learn history is through biographies. Not just the people core to an event, but the thousands of individuals that impacted those people. Humans view things very differently and to truly build an understanding, one must be privy to these multiple views.

To ensure we guarantee eternal life for ourselves we can use the technology at our disposal to create a 'memory-base'. A knowledge hierarchy that links the top level topics with billions of biographies. A centralized geneology pool that links the human race, not only with each other, but with all knowledge.
The meaning of life, put forward as a derivative of this work is: "The impact a person has on others". The story of the corporate executive versus the person who starts digging a hole....which has a greater impact in the end?


The logical beginning to knowledge is philosophy. Before exploring the physical or living concepts of our world, a much deeper mental understanding is required. Philosophy is the oldest form of systematic, scholarly inquiry. It is the study of the truths or principles underlying all knowledge, being, and reality. The philosopher's tools are basically logical and speculative reasoning. Philosophy seeks to find fundamental, natural principles that could explain what individuals know and experience about the world around them. SOCRATES, at his trial, proclaimed a basic philosophical premise, that "the unexamined life was not worth living."

The basis for human knowledge is experience from the past. The study of history provides the most complete understanding of who we are. History is the study of ages and eras, civilizations and cultures. History provides a framework for religion and evolution, and a study of human nature. Some speculate that the study of the future is firmly planted in the knowledge and experience of the past.

Starting large or small, from the Big Bang theory to the Human Genome project, science is a key part of knowledge. Understanding Earth Sciences, including atmosphere, climates, geology, hydrology, geography, and elements. Understanding Life Sciences including humans, animals, plants and non-animal classifications. And finally the Physical Sciences including astronomy, chemistry, physics and matter.

Finally, connecting philosophy to history and to our physical world is the study of humanities. The humanities is a very large and diverse knowledge base consisting of religion, society, art, literature, leisure and business. From major studies in Psychology and Sociology to understanding our pets, this subject represents a key foundation to wisdom.

Detail level hierarchy:

1. Philosophy
Epistemology - theory of knowledge and truth
Metaphysics - theory of existence and essence
Logic - theory of argument and validity
Aesthetics - theory of beauty and taste
Analytic - theory of process of analysis and philosphic method
Cosmology - theory of origin and universe
Ethics - theory of good and utility
2. History
World history
Ancient history
Ages and Eras
History of the Americas
North America
South America
History of Europe
Western Europe
Middle East
History of Asia and Australia
History of Africa
3. Science
Earth Sciences
Minerals, metals, rocks and elements
Landscapes and seascapes
Atmosphere, climates and natural phenomena
Life Sciences
Biological principles
Viruses, monerans and protists
Algae and fungi
Invertebrates, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians
Anatomy and physiology
Physical Sciences
Mathematical Sciences
Ancient measures
Time, weight and measures
Pure mathematics
Analytical geometry
Differential geometry
Euclidean geometry
Non-euclidean geometry
Fractal geometry
Number theory
Prime numbers
Set theory
Applied mathematics
Chaos theory
Computer science
Operations research
Building, construction and engineering
Communications and telecommunications
Tools and machines
Boats and navigation
Weapons and military technology
4. Humanities
Baha'ism (6M)
Buddhism (350M)
Christianity (2B)
Church of Christ
Roman Catholic
United Church
Christian Scientists
Hinduism (750M)
Islam (1B)
Jainism (4M)
Jehovah's Witnesses
Judaism (19M)
Seventh-Day Adventists
Shintoism (3M)
Sikhism (20M)
Society of Friends/Quakers
Unification Church
Satanic, Voodoo, Witchcraft and Wizardry (WICCA)
Mythology, magic, folklore and eschatology
The occult
Society and Societal Institutions
Castes and Classes
Domestic Life
Education and educational institutions
State or Provincial
Health and hospitals
Fitness and exercise
Publishing and the press
Cognition, reasoning and intuition
Personality and behaviour
Sex, love and romance
Strategy, intrigue and deception
The human condition
Art and Literature
Fine arts
Performing arts
Classical music
Popular music
Musical instruments
Television and radio
Applied arts
Decorative arts
Graphic design and printing
Leisure and Recreation
Holidays, celebrations and vacations
Entertainments and spectacles
Hunting and fishing
Games, activities and toys
Alcohol and tabacco
Business and Economics
Accounting, banking and finance
Business studies
Marketing and advertising
Real estate
Retail and consumer studies

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The PC is not dead! Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo Americas
July 20, 2010

It seems like once a year an article or blog gets posted re-igniting the debate on the future of computing devices. Because I often speak about the future of technology, the topic is of great interest to me.

Why don’t other industries have the same black/white mentality?

Mutual Funds are dead!
The car is dead – SUV’s will take over!
The toaster is dead!

Perhaps other mature industries, with more than 30 years of history, see changes as trends versus end results. To illustrate, yes, SUV sales have increased over the past 15 years, but is it really the end for cars? Absolutely not. Cars are growing geographically (China and other emerging markets), by style (coupe, sports, etc), by price point, by usage, by target market (eco friendly), and dozens of other ways.

Looking at some of the sources of the “PC is dead” mantra, it is usually a new technology that inspires the prediction:

Internet in 1994
Thin Clients in 1996
Smart phone in 2002
Virtualization in 2005
Cloud in 2007
Netbook in 2008
Slate in 2010

Interestingly, if you look at thin clients, virtualization, cloud computing, netbooks and slates, all very newsworthy and loaded with mountains of hype, none of them have taken over 11% of the end user demand in business and government spending.

What makes the PC so resilient?

Interestingly, many of the decisions that were made in Boca Raton , Florida in 1980 created the longevity of the platform. IBM deciding to use third parties for things like the processor, operating system, and BIOS in their first PC created a truly open, non-proprietary sand box. Other decisions like plenty of internal and external ports created a platform that would grow and evolve with the technology world around it.

No one in 1980 could predict the importance of connecting them together. In fact, networking didn’t become popular until years later. Things like high level gaming, multimedia, graphic arts, communication and social interaction were also significantly beyond the vision for the PC.

The PC has always been an open and configurable device, with a very low cost of entry for any organization to add value. Thus, its ability to evolve is core to its continued success.

It is the central device that you will continue to rely on as companion devices grow, such as smart phones, slates, WiFi toothbrushes, treadmills and thousands of other devices come to market.

Now, the facts:

The good news for VARs, Managed Service Providers and other HW resellers is the growth of the PC market has rebounded very quickly from the economic downturn. In fact, NPD just reported that US Distribution and Commercial Reseller categories increase both Notebook and Desktop almost 50% year over year.

Globally, IDC reported that PC growth last quarter was over 20% with strong results across the globe. This happened to be the first quarter of sales for the Apple iPad. This was a very similar story to the rapid growth of the Netbook two years ago – very little impact on PC categories.

What does this prove?

The facts are pointing to a new reality in computing. Users are looking for companion devices where they add value, but rely on the PC as their home base. Interestingly, to configure devices for the first time, whether it is a BlackBerry or iPad, requires a PC!

Pervasive computing is a concept where you will likely own 20 or more computer devices in the next 5 years. The PC appears to be the one central device that organizes , builds, and customizes content for these other companions.

Based on the past 15 years, trying to predict the next 15 is next to impossible. Knowing that computing will continue to build ubiquity and new and exciting usage scenarios are around the corner, the PC is well positioned to adapt and thrive.