Inventing the Future

Alan Kay once said that “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”. It is always nice to see efforts to invent the future. Some are small with near term potential and some are large ambitious once. Here are just a couple, I came across today in a mail I received from ACM TechNews.

Intel’s Challenge

“We Challenge You: A Call to Action on Global Issues

Intel’s INSPIRE•EMPOWER Challenge is calling for the best technology solutions to address four areas of global need – education, healthcare, economic development, and the environment. The contest will award seed funding of $100,000 USD to one winner in each category. The Challenge is designed to inspire developers, individuals, and organizations to innovate and empower them to deliver new ways to apply technology to these issues. The INSPIRE•EMPOWER Challenge advances the commitment of the Intel World Ahead Program – to connect people to a world of opportunity.”

You can find out more about Intel’s challenge here.

Expeditions in Computing

This initiative from NSF is a more ambitious one.

The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) has established four new Expeditions in Computing. Each of these $10 million grants will allow teams of researchers and educators to pursue far-reaching research agendas that promise significant advances in the computing frontier and great benefit to society.

“We created the Expeditions program to encourage the research community to send us their brightest and boldest ideas,” said Jeannette Wing, NSF’s assistant director for CISE. “We received an overwhelming response, and I’m delighted with the results of our first annual competition. The four Expeditions together push both the depth and breadth of our field: pursuing longstanding scientific questions of computing, creating a new field of computational sustainability, experimenting with novel technologies for secure, ubiquitous computing and communications of the future, and exploring what we even think of as computing.”

It covers four broad areas.

  1. Understand, Cope with, and Benefit From Intractability
  2. Computational Sustainability: Computational Methods for a Sustainable Environment, Economy, and Society
  3. Open Programmable Mobile Internet 2020 project
  4. Molecular Programming Project

CISE anticipates hosting an Expeditions competition annually, with three new awards anticipated each year. The deadline for preproposal submission to the second annual Expeditions competition is September 10, 2008.

Do you know of any other initiatives of similar nature around the world. Please add a comment with a link.

Talk: Technology Trends

Last week, I had the opportunity to give a talk at NECTEC (National Electronics and Computer Technology Center) during my one week visit to Thailand. When I visit other countries, I always find an opportunity to talk to a tech crowd. This one was fun. I was tracing some of the short/medium/long term trends in technology and their impact on learning, teaching, collaboration and how we work. I will cover some of those topics in future blogs.

This was a great group of about 20 people. Most of them (I got a few biz cards) seemed to be Ph.Ds and some of them got their post graduate degrees from USA. A few of them were working in Computational Linguistics. We were brainstorming some ideas on natural language parsing issues of non-English languages like Thai.

I think, at a certain level, all software people are alike. They seem to have similar interests and seem to get excited by very similar things. It may be fun to explore Social Networking for Software Developers, internationally.

The presentation itself was just a placeholder. It was just a means of starting a dialog. I was more interested in talking about the application and impact of these trends than the trends themselves.

Corporate Social Networks

If you are a member of any type of social network, you probably understand the ease with which you can stay connected with friends and colleagues. In addition, you can discover new groups, communities and applications. This is exactly what is happening to me in Facebook. I see the applications they add, the communities they join and even people they connect to. Within less than 10 minutes a day, I can get a bird’s eye view of what is going on in my network of family, friends and colleagues.

How can we take this effect and translate it to our organization? How can we stay connected with our customers, employees (present and past) our advisors and partners. How about deploying a corporate social network?

In 5 Reasons to Deploy Corporate Social Network, CIO Insight highlights the opportunities and challenges of deploying corporate networks. From improving knowledge management, to increasing business opportunities, this presentation covers several benefits of corporate social networks.

I think there are a couple of other intangibles. First of all social networks are fun. Knowing a bit more about my colleagues is more likely to make my interactions with them better. Second, social networks may make hierarchical organization look flatter. Informal networks will blossom given the opportunity for interaction. Finally, I think social networks are great tools for harnessing collective intelligence.