Convergence of Ideas and the Internet Singularity

Recently I noticed a strange convergence of ideas show up through my Blogroll, so I wanted to call out a few posts.
Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, writes that if he could fix one problem in the world, he would give everyone the ability to understand when someone had more expertise than us on a given subject.  In another post he writes about making complicated decisions where many of the influencing factors are effectively unknown.
Malcom Gladwell (The author of Blink) writes about expert systems and how sometimes algorithms can be used to increase the probability that the average decision maker will make good choices.
Thirdly, and this is a bit older, Gary Flake often talks (and writes, and presents) about the idea of an Internet singularity, where humanity achieves a sort of critical mass that enables rapid forward progress.  

All of these ideas seemed to mesh together in my mind.  Scott Adams’ “Universal Fix” is the event horizon to the internet singularity.  People already have access to more information than they need.  The big problem is that they have way too much information.  They don’t know who to trust.  Was that Amazon review written by a paid shill, or is this product really the best?  Gladwell’s post shows how we will likely get there from here.   What we need are expert systems that are designed to sift the BS from the good information.  When I need advice on how to clean a juice stain on my carpet, or get an eyelash out of my eye I need to know that I can go to a single location and find what I need.
The good thing is that they have been working on the BS filter for a while now.  Google has a pretty good one built.  Microsoft is getting close to feature & relevance parity with Google.  Other players are keeping pace. 
The winner is going to be the company that manages to build a brand that is no longer associated with searching the internet, but rather with finding knowledge and information all over the world.  It’s a subtle distinction considering how much of the world’s knowledge is making it’s way onto the internet.  The problem is that internet search is all about research, and research isn’t always fun.  While I enjoy reading specs while considering buying a new computer, most folks would rather just be able to provide information about how they plan to use the machine and get good solid recommendations back. I know Dell and Gateway and others say “Just call us, we’ll tell you what you need”, but that is advertising, not good advice.
Most people go to the search engines because they have a problem to solve.  The research that entails is a means to an end, not the end itself.  Instead of spewing out pages and pages of indexed text, I need a search engine that gives me concise, correct opinions, or which points me to experts, and/or expert systems that can solve my problems better than I can.  And I need to be able to trust that no one is paying for the privilege of getting to be my “expert” so they can make a profit off me.

MSN Direct for the Masses

Ok, I’m not going to claim to have researched the feasibility of this, but I’ve been eyeing various models of the MSN Direct (SPOT) watches for years now, but every year I check the coverage maps, and every year I am disappointed that coverage hasn’t yet expanded anywhere near my location.  I was wondering if it would be possible for Microsoft to design and build a personal USB connected Low-Power Unlicensed FM transmitter that could provide sync and data to these watches.  

My understanding is that these watches already get all of their data over FM radio data channels, so it would probably only require minor changes if any to make it work with a “MSN Direct Base Station”.  Most of us spend the majority of our days near one or two internet connected computers, so this solution would keep the watch almost as up to date as if we were in a real coverage area.  And since the personal base station would only be syncing our data, it might even provide faster updates of the information we care about.

So Television Really Was a Fad

TechCrunch’s Arrington writes that Television is dead.  From that post: “The key tipping point will be when a startup is able to distribute proper television content over the Internet legally. People will begin to abandon their cable tv subscriptions in favor of Internet distribution.” 

The only argument I have with this statement is that there doesn’t have to be a startup.  Last year I wrote a post titled “A New Media Model” where I discussed how the media producers could simply cut out the middle men and deliver content directly to consumers.  I really don’t want a new middle man to take the place of the old one, I want flatter distribution, and I want choices about what content I receive, when I receive it, and how I can use it. 
As a side note, until devices like Apple’s ITV are commonplace, efforts in this arena are going to fall flat.  I’ve watched missed episodes of some of our favorite shows on our computer and it just isn’t the same.