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Topsight, April 8, 2009 (part II)

Read these:

• Sid, not Andy: In the movie Toy Story, did you think that the neighbor kid, Sid -- the one that hacked different toys together, blew them up, and generally played with them "inappropriately" -- was the bad guy? You're wrong.

What we need in our education system is a belief in Sid, not Andy. That’s not the dominant strain in today’s schools. We’re intent on producing functioning Andys — children who follow the rules, who don’t violate any product warnings, who know the pre-cooked answers. [...] A Sid-based education would encourage children to invent and explore, to chart their own paths, to defy conventions, to explore dead ends as well as promising boulevards. It would demand rigor — I have very little patience for education that doesn’t require the accumulation of key, basic knowledge.

I agree with this 110% -- I always thought that what Sid did looked fun (plus, he was funny-looking, and I really hate the "ugly=evil" trope).

• Biobatteries: Genetically-modified bacteriophage viruses engineered to produce lithium-ion batteries at room temperature with no toxic materials.


• Starships Rule (what remains of) Iceland's Economy: My friend Dan Johnson offers this observation:

Iceland's economy has effectively collapsed. But one of the stronger online games is EVE Online, which is owned & run by an Icelandic company. EVE has a vibrant economy, and a functioning (if unofficial) exchange rate between the in-game currency and real-world currencies. EVE's currency is a virtual version of the Icelandic Króna.

Hence, "Iceland has collapsed so thoroughly that at this point, it's only economically viable export may very well be an internet spaceship game, and that internet spaceship game's króna is for all intents and purposes a more real and valid and valuable currency than the actual country's actual money."

We truly live in a future designed by Charlie Stross.

• Future of Education: The Knowledge Works Foundation and the Institute for the Future have put up a site talking about the future of education. I worked on this project, but I think it has some good insights anyway. Check it out.

This 2020 Forecast illuminates how we are shifting toward a culture of creation in which each of us has the opportunity – and the responsibility – to make our collective future. People are creating new selves, organizations, systems, societies, economies, and knowledge.

We are seeing “educitizens” define their rights as learners and re-create the civic sphere. Networked artisans and ad hoc factories are democratizing manufacturing and catalyzing new local economies. These creators are highlighting the significance of cooperation and cross-cultural intelligence for citizenship and economic leadership.

Furthermore, advances in neuroscience are creating new notions of performance and cognition and are reshaping discussions of social justice in learning. Communities are beginning to re-create themselves as resilient systems that respond to challenges by replenishing their vital resources and creating flexible, open, and adaptive infrastructures.

Together, these forces are pushing us to create the future of learning as an ecosystem, in which we have yet to determine the role of educational institutions as we know them today.

Can you guess which section I worked on?

• Personal Urban My Accessibility!: I'm split between thinking this is silly and thinking that it's potentially quite interesting; I'll probably decide that it's silly, but then lament that the useful stuff got lost in the induced giggles.

PUMA -- Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility -- is a joint project by General Motors and Segway. Two seater, electric, 35mph max/35 mile range... all very standard city golf cart stats. The Segway style balance aspect is cool, especially given that the machine is very maneuverable as a result, but what really sets it apart is the use of the ad-hoc vehicle network to manage traffic flows.

"Project P.U.M.A. represents a unique solution to moving about and interacting in cities, where more than half of the world's people live," said Larry Burns, GM vice president of research and development, and strategic planning. "Imagine small, nimble electric vehicles that know where other moving objects are and avoid running into them. Now, connect those vehicles in an Internet-like web and you can greatly enhance the ability of people to move through cities, find places to park and connect to their social and business networks."

Bonus points for using "social networking" in a press release about a car.

(Well, booger. I meant to post this in draft for tomorrow, but too late now. I guess I should write something else for tomorrow. In my copious spare time.)


The PUMA has a stupid name and has been widely laughed-at but makes WAY more sense as a city car than even the Smart. It's safe, reliable, zero-emissions, requires hardly any storage space, yet fulfills the essential transport needs in the city: getting groceries, trips that are too long to walk, transport in the rain (OK it does look a bit less than rainproof), and for those situations where taxis and buses don't serve very well.

When I was living in San Francisco without a car it would've been ideal. Of course, I'm not sure I could take the ridicule on the street - one of those annoying barriers to the uptake of all kinds of useful technologies.

And the truth is that car-sharing services with pods on every block may do better. After all, the form-factor of a compact car evolved for some pretty good reasons.

Still, as an example of actually experimenting with new technology it has to be applauded (and maybe laughed at but in a friendly kind of way). When was the last time you saw GM doing something like that? The EV-1?

The reason Sid is the villain is not because he experiments - it's because he "kicks the robot".

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