Ming the Mechanic:
The value of connections

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 The value of connections2007-11-08 01:49
13 comments
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Fine Article at World Changing by Jon Lebkowsky about social networks and the value of connections. I'll excerpt a good explanation of some of the basics for discussing that:
The conversation about social network value starts with a couple of assertions, or "laws," that have influenced the evolution of both technical and social networks:

Metcalfe's Law: The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of endpoints.
Reed's Law: The utility of large networks, particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network.

The first law, authored by Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe, describes how the value of a communications network grows with the square of the number of people or devices it connects. Forgetting the math behind this assertion, what he's really saying is that the value grows faster than the number of access points.

Metcalfe coined another term, network effect, to describe the increase in value of a good or service as it's adopted by more and more people. This makes sense: If only one guy has a telephone, it's not valuable at all, but as more and more people acquire phones, value increases because the potential for connection increases. When I first got an email account in the 1980's, its value was practically zero because there were so few email users and nobody I knew had it. From a personal perspective, as more people used email, and especially as more people I knew got accounts, the more valuable it became. From a global perspective, email has significant value now because so many people have accounts. Even the homeless guy sleeping in the park is liable to have a free email account that he can access at the library.

(Increased value can also have a down side. Because the network is so valuable, it creates a negative, in that it creates value for the spammers who make my life, and probably yours, miserable.)

Metcalfe was influential early on, but David Reed went a step further, and a lot of us who've been co-creating the "Web 2.0" world had an "aha moment" when we read his piece about the "sneaky exponential" and the real power of community building...
I think it is important to stress that we're talking about the potential value of a network. Just because you can call everybody in the world on the phone doesn't mean that you will or that much will come out of it. There's lot more potential there than if you didn't have phones, of course. But even in a vast network where one can form groups and collaborate, the actual value is a small fraction of the potential value. I'm a member of a lot of groups in places like Facebook, a bunch of which sound great, are along the lines of things I'm very interested in, and that are populated by people I like. And yet I rarely visit them, and not much comes out of it.

There are a lot of bottlenecks that limit network value. Bandwidth issues, and lack of ways of organizing stuff. I have no great way of processing huge amounts of information because I don't have time to figure out what to do with it, and even though there is too much, there is also too little, so I don't necessarily perceive my connection with it, or the relevance for me.

There's of course Dunbar's Number, which says that one can only maintain a meaningful social relationship with 150 people at the same time. There's that we can only keep our conscious attention on 5-7 things at the same time. And there's that computers don't help us much in overcoming such attention limits, even though they potentially could. Software does help us keep track of more things at the same time, and more things that are dispersed around the world in different places and different fields. And software does help me pay attention. But it just as much scatters my attention.

There's a lot of software that hasn't been invented yet, which usually appears in science fiction, where one has some kind of symbiotic relationship with a computer and network, which makes us smarter, staying conscious of more stuff. But it doesn't really have to be in the form of a metaphysical merging with some big Singularity AI thing. Somebody has to write the software, and they could potentially do so now.

We could get closer to the potential value of a network if I could see more of it. Even though the phone network is a relatively "simple" to understand network, I can't see it, I can't perceive it. I can see it like I can see the world through a keyhole. I can call one number at a time, or maybe two if I have call waiting, or a few dozen in a conference call. But nothing close to the few billion numbers there really are. I can get a list of people to call from a phonebook, a big stack of paper, sorted alphabetically, covering only a small geographical region. I can get much more online, but I can still only see it a limited number of ways, and organized by place, name and business. I can't really see the potential.

I can see much more in online social networks, like people's pictures, their interests, their activities, where they go, what they do, who they know. At least to a certain extent. If I already know them well, it might be enough to stay connected in a useful way. If I don't, it might still be like the difference between a travel brochure and the actual journey. The brochure might have feeds and videos, but I'm still not there. My computer screen is still like a keyhole.

In some kind of idealized future cyberspace everything will be connected and all information will be cross-indexed and we'll have access to in a computer-assisted way. Hopefully, when we figure out how. We can demonstrate some of it on a relatively small scale, and it is available if we put our mind to it. If I've read a book, and I no longer need it, I might be happy to give it away or exchange it with somebody else for another book which I might like to read, and which that person no longer needs. There are websites that will let you do exactly such an exchange. But you have to really decide that it is important, and to join it, sign up, type in the books you have available, mail them, etc. I'd of course want it to be more automatic, and thoroughly optimized. It would be easier if it were a person a couple of streets away who wanted my book, and easier if I didn't have to first join a website and type in the information about it.

The potentially exponential value of a network comes about only if all information is linked up. If I can always find the very best information available, and the exact best people to work with, and the exact right time to do stuff, everything changes, of course. The Internet didn't yet magically make that happen, even if we suspected that maybe it would.

So, how can we connect more, with more people? How can we use social software to get us beyond more of the limitations we're still taking with us from the non-wired world. I.e. how many things or how many people we can keep track of at one time. Connections will become more valuable if they can produce value even when I'm not paying attention to them. Paying attention, even when I'm not paying attention. Staying connected even when I don't connect.


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13 comments

9 Nov 2007 @ 17:02 by a-d : The limitations of
a mechanical Mind; the techno-miracle we call ( our Personal) Computer; "PC" are all very well expressed in your article here, Ming.
Our Flesh & Blood (plus so much more) body is also a computer of sorts... keeping track of much more than our everyday conscious mind even with the help of its extension, the PC, ever can. How many trillions of cells and (their) functions/needs are taken care of -all simultaneously- by this Magical PERSONAL Comp we call our own body/Being??!?!?....
why is it that so many humans have difficulties in taking in account/into the equation the COSMIC Computer and from there going to understand that we at all times are connected to IT -and can access whatever we deem important/of value to us- at any given time!
Wouldn't it behoove us to learn to understand how to use THAT Computer much, -MUCH- better? Why do people prefer -and even insist- to cross the river to get some water, to use a fitting metaphor?
The Universal/Cosmic Mind -or Christ Mind if you want to use old "religious" lingo, is IN-dependent of outer equipment, time and space and just as accurate, if not more so, than the tiny feeble "MicroSoft PC" we have at our finger tips now. Not only that, but provided we know how to access our own cosmic connection to this Eternal Cosmic Computer (which we also could plainly call "Life" Itself) we could access at any given moment whatever and whomever we wanted ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE Universe, so to speak, Universe? in/despite(?) all It's "vastness"? We are all INSIDE this "vastness" just like the sells making up our body are all inside our body!... -and all connected to the Cosmic Functions Board, that makes sure all the cells are being kept in touch with & cared for and a special Attention /"Personal Moment" can be given any cell at any given time -if/when needed!... In the same manner we can handle all in the whole Universe the day we learn our own most personal PC handling and leave the Phone and MicroSoft aside for a while.. They are after all soooo limited!
True, genuine telepathy, for instance, is much more accurate and instant than phones, PC's...
You don't think you have access right now to that Cosmic Magic Telepathy (capacity)?!? Think again! You do use it ALL the time!!!.... You just don't know it, because you -most likely - have not had training to learn to understand it. And with that said it is good to START by understanding that we use it all the time doing a lot of damage to each other, when not understanding what we REALLY are up to at any given moment when we "think" of each other or something particular.  



10 Nov 2007 @ 10:11 by jazzolog : An Important Entry
and thank you for the soul-searching Flemming. Tom Bombadil (you probably remember him from in here) and I just have been discussing similar questions over at Blogger---where the setup just doesn't invite as much interaction as NCN's. The same certainly is true at Upsaid. MySpace invites you to make a lot of contacts, if you just branch off into other people's "Friends" lists---but it sure involves tremendous time and dedication...and maybe neediness. It seems to me, depending on how much time one wants to give to the computer every day, one can deal effectively with only a few blogs and a message board or two---and of course a daily visit to whatever-it-is-we're-making-out-of-this.  


11 Nov 2007 @ 15:21 by ming : Connecting
Yeah, it bugs me that it isn't easier to really connect. I spend quite some time trying to stay up on the latest ways, even though I'm missing half of them because there's so much new. NCN still does some things well that are missing in other places. And it is lacking in others. And some of those new technologies are very promising. But getting it all to fit together so that one can concentrate on connecting in useful ways, rather than concentrating on one technology or another - that's the harder part. I would very much like to contribute to better solutions. But at the same time I realize from experience that it is difficult and time consuming. So I usually have to settle for a little philosophizing / complaining about how things ought to be.  


11 Nov 2007 @ 15:41 by ming : Mechanical and Natural minds
Astrid, I think that all that technology will just be a temporary externalization. In the long term history of humanity, there are a few hundred years here where we make machines, and those machines are devices we need to manufacture and sell and buy, that are complicated and time-consuming to operate, that break down, that needs upgrades, etc. Most likely those machines are headed for being so small and so capable as to become invisible, and with nanotech and neural interfaces, they might both become directly connected with our minds, and the reality around us becomes something infinitely moldable.

And the joke of it is that the technological nanotech singularity nirvana would just end up connecting us with the capabilities we had all along, but somehow hadn't paid much attention to. Telepathic multi-dimensional immortality, creating our own realities in real time. The technology can't really do much more than reveal the potential that already was there, uncovering universal laws so they're more accessible. In a way, showing us what we're already doing.

So, one way or another, I think we're ending up in roughly the same kind of place, at least if I'm a bit optimistic. The spiritual or technological paths will converge at some point, even if they might seem a bit polarized now. And the joke is that the wildest of the technological trends are driven mostly by materialist atheist scientists, who don't even believe in the stuff they're creating.  



2 Dec 2007 @ 02:30 by David Snieckus @96.233.77.171 : Econonomy of Food
Flemming Funch: ming
Just read Economy, 27 July 1995...thought I'd look you up and found this site.
Here's A BIT ON how I have answered your question about value created money.
I have written both Kennedy and Kerry ( Senators to the US Senate) and aked them to present a bill: CREATE US GOVERNMENT CURRENCY, INTEREST AND DEBT FREE.
I think I have a way.
Interested in knowing?
DAVID SNIECKUS
Newton, MA 02466
www.davidsnieckus.com

p.s. The answer even solves the problem you mention above, "Yeah, it really bugs me that it isn't easier to connect."  



2 Dec 2007 @ 21:32 by ming : Government currency
Hello David. I'd like to hear more about your proposal. Do you have it written up in a webpage?  


2 Dec 2007 @ 22:40 by David Snieckus @96.233.77.171 : Simple Currency Plan
The simplicity of this plan took 30 years to develop (It's appearance verbally just happened in the last month!)

After reading various books aand viewing various Dvd's on Money,
I have sent Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy and Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts a letter to: Create US GOVERNMENT CURRENCY: debt and interest free.
The reason:
Since money is just a promise to pay (or really just an accounting) and that we are in the age of electronics, I propose the US government print it's own money,( DIGITAL) declare it legal, pay off all the debt from foreign governments, esp. CHINA with a promise to pay something of value...FOOD namely with RICE or other whole grain for the next 20 years. ( you laughing or crying?)

Too simplistic: Then look at it this way:

Eating whole grain rice everyday gives you an easy connection with ALL the people of the world eating rice. Rice is the most evolved plant life on the planet..(whole grain, the fruit and seed, contains all the information of evolution, everything we know to live in peace and harmony on this planet)..humans are the most evolved animal life. Humans eating brown rice are connected to the planet and have a feeling of being connected. It's quite peaceful... A Feeling of contentment, a feeling of being in heaven...NOW...Here...and forever!

Chew on that for 30 years...Ha ha
Send me an e-mail if this sounds too far-feteched or actually reasonable.
DAVID SNIECKUS  



3 Dec 2007 @ 02:45 by bushman : Hmm,
You know in the end time writen in the bible it does say "a penny a measure of grain" but then, Monsanto would be the ones supllying geneticly modified grains, so still is a monplolistic problem. Rice might be evolved but the mojority is GM these days. A little too late for most grain foods to be natural, but then food is food right? We all got to eat, but lets say some pollen from grains modified to make adhesives or imune supresing drugs gets into the mix, then what? How will your idea deffeat the fedral reserve? How will it make governments turn thier backs on the fed? Surly new homegrown dollars couldnt compeet with the Euro, if the fedral reserve dollar is struggling with it.  


3 Dec 2007 @ 16:16 by David Snieckus @96.233.77.171 : Education and training
Bushman:
Education and training in the quality of their food and their money is the answer. What most call Food is not food. Anything man makes in a laboratory and passes off as food is not food, especially those long list of ingredients on packages. It's convenient and has a long shelp life but it is not food.
Food to me is something grown in the soil than I can eat: grains, vegetable and beans. I know th qulaity is not there for everyone right now, but in the future when the education and training ia available to all ( which I'm planning on doing) then a demand will be creted for better quality food to sustaintain thier life on this beautiful planet called Heaven. Know to most at EARTH.

I woulnd't defeat the Federal Reserve...just let it wither away...NO debt currency will put it out of business! Governments will only turn thier back on the Federal Reserve when the people demand it...perhaps not right now,,,but soon

Home grown dollars are the only way to compet with the fed...good always replaces bad.

AND a biblical quote on the side: "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."

Our food should be grain: the fruit bearing seed.  



3 Dec 2007 @ 16:53 by bushman : Still
it will be monopoly money, you know Ron Paul had a stake in gold liberty dollars, and then the gov/fed came in and took it all away, claiming it was illeagal currancy. As well most grain patents are owned by Monsanto, how you going to know if the grain your going to grow is not contaminated with non-natural grain genes? Your biblical quot comes before a time when man has corupted the natural genetic material of the grain.  


4 Dec 2007 @ 01:16 by ming : Currency plan
Well, that's maybe a little too simple, David. Yeah, it would certainly be better if the governments created the currencies than that the banks do. Either way, the money is a fictitious quantity, a symbol, created from nothing, but meant to represent some value. Currently the money is debt based. Meaning, the bank creates it out of thin air and gives it to somebody, and that somebody owes it back with interest, but has use of it for a while to pay for things with real value, and it can circulate amongst lots of people who buy or sell stuff of value. And the banks is at any time owed all the money in existence, plus some more that couldn't possibly exist. And even the government must borrow some of that made-up money, owing it back with interest. Of course it would be more reasonable if it was the government that made up the money in the first place. There would be no reason to pay taxes for one thing, as that primarily is used to pay the interest.

But what the central banks do do, and not that badly, is to keep things fairly stable, not too much inflation, etc. So that would have to be part of the plan, how one balances things out on an ongoing basis, how the money can appear roughly when it is needed. OK, the current economy does that in a backwards way, in that it makes it more possible for somebody to borrow it when there's something to buy. An alternative would be good, where somebody would have the value in currency when they've actually produced it. As opposed to now where the currency is given (lent) to somebody who will buy and own what others have produced.

Yes, the US should probably think about how to produce something of value. It takes much more value than it produces, which can't keep going of course. Only has kept going because lots of countries have lots of dollars in stock as reserves, which they don't intend to buy anything for. So it would be a miraculous change it the US could figure out how to produce value for everything it owes away.  



5 Dec 2007 @ 02:12 by David Snieckus @96.233.77.171 : Miraculous changes
Ming, Thanks for your reply. Watch for miraculous changes! Watch the US become the best, natural grain supplying nation to the world! ( not yest...but soon...It will be the only value nations will wnat from us.

Bushman: The governments, especially China, holding our dollars, (which we will pay off in a promise to pay in grain) will demand ONLY natural grain.  



19 Dec 2014 @ 20:41 by Ane @178.119.114.158 : FLpHPNbYyycmfnj
It's a sad news that you decided to sunsped your blog. I am surprised that you faced so many pressure on writing this blog, just because different investment strategies.It's not bad thing, though, since Warren buffet has been scold on his investment strategies in last TNT bubble. Now he still be the 2nd riches people in the world.good luck!  


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