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Columns

The Alpha and Omega

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Power equals money, and vice versa, used to be a straightforward equation. No longer. The new digital cosmos has made this a very relative concept, transforming what were once purely mercantile products and services, or exclusively cultural creations, into a harmony of content and experience.

The great (and largely false) Platonic divide between spirit and corpus, money and values, is obsolete. As is the endless pontification about how globalisation, the internet, and...life, have rendered western life, but not western values, derivative all over the world.

Wake up. The point, like life, is elsewhere now. On the web. In digital. 

Evolution is the name of the new game. 

Evolution that encompasses ecommerce and emotion, ideals as timeless and vital as knowledge, freedom, access, communication, adventure, discovery; and as bold as limitlessness in life (artificial intelligence, deathlessness, genetics, space exploration.)

Yet, like all living creatures, people and companies cannot live on love and knowledge alone. The mind requires a physical host; besides, as recent neurological and neuroscience discoveries have proven, the body influences the mind in unknown ways (Oliver Sacks has written at length about this.) Think iPhone: an interdependent union of software and hardware. This is the way all people and companies who belong to the future rather than the past, are headed: feed the body, feed the soul.

Google (or rather, its new iteration, Alphabet) with its Google-X lab, Calico, health labs (it recently created an eye contact that can measure glucose in blood levels) Google Cultural Institute, and dedication to unfettered freedom and free access for all is the quintessential example. If its Google Books settlement had been 

allowed to go through, it would have been as important to education and culture, as Google Search is to everything human.

Its new shake-up (after the hiring of a former financial executive in COO role) allows for greater freedom and focus in pursuing ideals: by to cultivating their more commercial ventures (ads, analytics, GooglePlay, the internet of things, etc) they can reach for the moon—and stars. This is manifested by its recent acquisition of Dr. Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the world’s leading scientists in behavioral-health research, to head Google Life Sciences, which seeks to develop technologies for early detection and treatment of health problems. According to the NYT “In his new job, Dr. Insel will do an about-face of sorts, turning back to the psychosocial realm, only this time with a new set of tools. One project he has thought about is detecting psychosis early, using language analytics — algorithms that show promise in picking up the semantic signature of the disorganized thinking characteristic of psychosis.”.

Moment-to-moment mental tracking has also become a commercial reality, and the idea is for further evolution, to employing the power of data analytics to make behavioral studies much more objective than they have been before, and to make mood and language tracking an easily and universally accessible tool in order to identify and treat mental health conditions in situations where it would be left unnoticed until it was too late—for the patient, and everyone else.

Facebook is also following a similar path, in a different way. What originated as an e-connection, then e-commerce tool, has now also become a major media force (see original content agreement it reached with the New York Times, National Geographic, Buzzfeed), financial tool (money transfer), A.I. (Occulus) developer, phone text (Messenger platform), and is now branching out into “good for the world, good for the poor, good for the soul” activities. Providing wifi access to third world countries, creating health foundations, blocking and banning hate speech are all concrete examples.

As is its new announcement about the forthcoming launch of a new "empathy" button (actually a "dislike" one, exclusively however to connote sympathy or compassion for posts whose content is painful, ill-suited to "likes"; easier said than done; it will, I believe prove a challenge for FB to gauge the true meaning of "dislikes".)

In this new wondrous world, new coalitions are forming, and old companies take on new iterations. FOX partners with National Geographic; Hulu and Netflix resist buy-outs and have started creating original content already starting to trump that of the dinosaurs (networks), something cable companies are already losing money over.

In the meantime Jeff Bezos of Amazon wants to rule over space (as well), something he will seemingly have to battle over with the car and battery innovator, Elon Musk. Star Wars, the new beta version.

And the beating heart and mind of the universal consciousness and subconscious, Twitter, is, slowly becoming the main venue for thoughtful information, for communication, for knowledge (for those who seek it of course.) Its allowing unrestricted length for direct messages (in contrast to the 140 character rule of tweets), and the new “commentary” option on retweeted or quoted tweets are already transforming it into a new, valuable educational tool.

At the same time, education is fast becoming a value and commodity, financially and digitally accessible for most of humanity. From the vast archives of free digital libraries, to scientific fora (such as elifesciences.org) and…Google, the world is now a place where knowledge, culture, education, is just a tap away. Companies such as Whispersync (now part of Amazon), Prime Lending Library and Oyster, help drive people to read and learn more. 

Apple is handing out iPads and Macbooks as part of the White House ConnectEd initiative, where Google also plays an integral role; IBM is pioneering a STEM school model called P-Tech, which it, Microsoft, SAP and others are implementing in public high schools; and last week Facebook said it would expand its partnership with Summit Public Schools, which runs K-12 schools in California and Washington state.

Elon Musk of Tesla has already started a montessori elementary school, originally for his kids; and a for-profit start-up school, Altschool, is backed by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, as well as venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Founders Fund. 

At the same time, established education companies, such as Weld North, are becoming leaders and pioneers in digital learning (especially for the more vulnerable, those who need help to do it) as well as provide school improvement services. At the heart of these services lies the ideal, the vision of providing the new generation with easy access to intellectual, cultural, and value-based education of quality that can elevate human existence to a whole other dimension.

After all, in the beginning there was the Word. The Alpha and Omega.


 
My beloved terrorist
Published by: LIVANIS
First printing: 2001
Pages: 403
Hellenists: Greece does not wound them
Published by: LIVANIS
First printing: 1999
Pages: 314
 
 

 

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