Obscenity, Infinity, and Bionic Beings

by Daniel H. Steinberg

This installment has more from this year's O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference. Eric Bonabeau looks at obscenity and infinity to illustrate what people and machines are particularly good at, Tim O'Reilly sets up that talk by considering the Mechanical Turk and applications of bionics, and Rael Dornfest briefly tells us to meet the people who surround us at these conferences. (DTF 03-27-2006: 29 minutes 10 seconds)

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Distributing the Future March 27, 2006: "Obscenity, Infinity, and Bionic Beings"

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1:25 Meet Your Neighbors

In this quick excerpt from Rael Dornfest's welcome to ETech attendees, he reminds them to pay attention to the people sitting on either side of them. You can download presentations and see more media coverage on the Emerging Technology conference site. (1:05)

2:30 Six Million Dollar Man

Tim O'Reilly looks at recent applications that integrate people into the process. A particular weakness for machines is evaluation. O'Reilly gives examples that include security for web feedback and a way to more intelligently gather and present interesting stories. (5:45)

8:15 A Hunch Engine

In addition to the keynotes, this year we have recordings from most of the ETech sessions. Here is an edited-down version of Eric Bonabeau's talk on a Hunch Engine. He reminds us of the famous obscenity test--that we'll know it when we see it--and shows how people are good at applying this test to filter out options and pick out items that display the features we want. We are not good at searching for candidates for this weeding-out process. This is where machines can help us.(20:10)

Total running time: 29:10

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Production Notes

The initial montage is from Tim O'Reilly, recorded at OSCON '04 and in a phone interview with Doug Kaye of IT Conversations, and is used with permission. "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet" is a quote from author William Gibson that Tim used with attribution.

The credits, including special thanks to David Battino for composing and performing the theme music. David can be found at and also edits O'Reilly's Digital Audio site. David provided a lot of help and feedback getting this program launched. We used Soundtrack Pro, Bias Peak, and Audio Hijack Pro to put it together.

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.

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