Friday, April 28, 2006

kirkyan timesuits for books - Sven's rejoinder

Sven Johnson (of reBang), originator of the "kirkyan" concept, made a very insightful comment after the last post -- actually, it's more than just a "comment", as it clears up some kirkyan misconceptions. To ensure you don't overlook it, I've reproduced it here as an independent post.

Thanks Sven!


'"A kirkyan is, if I understand it right, a spime weighted toward the temporal."

Not quite. It's weighted toward the multi-dimensional and the temporal dimensions (plural) just so happen to be the most important because they facilitate a multi-vector, evolutionary system.

"It's an info-object, and maybe a "blobject" that, like a spime, exists primarily as information."

A kirkyan is a superset of both. A blogject (which I believe is to what you're referring), is much more limited. The RadTag device I designed a couple of years ago fits that description. A spime is a superset to a blogject, but by definition it's limited in a number of ways - primary among them being the caveats that it always starts as 3D data (a "virtual" object), is then fabricated into our reality and then is trackable to the end of it's physical existence at which time that object expires (even if the data is collected did not). A kirkyan has no such limitations (and perhaps lacks a few others that don't come readily to mind).

"It becomes material when needed, instantiating on the fly, ..."

No. There is always a material version. The reason for this is simple survival so that it can "evolve" (although it's by no means an AI). A purely virtual instance leaves a kirkyan vulnerable to a computer virus that might wipe out the virtual space in which is exists (i.e. the entire database). Because the instantiations remain in contact, whatever a virtual instance learns is passed on and preserved in the other(s).

The more redundancy, the better the chances of survival. But even with only one virtual and one physical, the chances are dramatically improved. In the event the physical is destroyed for whatever reason, it can then be refabricated (using new RP/RM technologies like EBM or SLM) by the same device to which a spime ends up - the recycle bin.

That last bit makes sense to me because with advances in materials and material reclamation (including the use of bacteria to break down styrenes and other nasty plastics), it makes sense to have the object itself be part of the system that recreates it. It's a bit like a phoenix.

"... and is extremely modifiable and hackable (by its users)."

That would depend on the creator of the original kirkyan. Some will be resistant - and for good reason. An environmental sensor/response kirkyan (say for oil-spill clean up) is not something I'd necessarily want to be hackable or modifiable by just anyone.

Some authors may choose to not allow their books to become modified by outsiders, but may themselves somehow adapt over time. Other authors will doubtlessly open up their work.

"Books will be kirkyans when publishers make info about the book (like all the user reviews, ratings, editorial reviews, concordances, and even message boards and wikis to supplement the document, etc.) available with the book "object",..."

The creator of the original makes this determination (much like how Second Life's system works with creator's granting different level of permissions on the objects they create). And for books, you might have an author who limits modification of his creation by disallowing someone from changing the actual text, but allowing people to add notes to the text. You might get a kirkyan book and select a particular reviewer, for example, whose notes might be accessed through highlighted text (the new e-ink technologies will make this a nice option).

Then the author, who then sells rights to a publisher, might then specify that the publisher may not a) alter the text in any manner, and b) prevent the addition of notes from public reviewers. There might be any number of "rights" assigned and could get very complex and complicated.

I expect levels of control will get very granular - at least for some time until a "best practices" model emerges and a collection of "rights" is packaged more easily. At some point, however, average people will have to grapple with issues very similar to what corporations are currently going through; all part of the democratization of production.

"and especially when the book "object" includes some kind of device that allows the book to get updates (new information about itself, errata, an addendum, and anything from the above list, etc.) and some kind of "smart" or non-inert or non-static or modifiable "paper"."

The physical book/kirkyan will soon be an electronic paper and as such updating becomes a non-issue. And connectivity so that it remains continuously connected will also soon be with us. Blogjects can be made now. There are objects that seem to come close to being spimes of which I'm aware (spatially-limited and not very "cradle-to-grave" at this point). After the spimes are in place, kirkyans would come next in the development tree - and a book may very well be the first one.

A book could be written and a "master" version could be fabricated (using electronic paper, built-in networking, aso). The question in my mind is what happens when it allows distribution across virtual spaces - millions of e-book readers. You might then have kirkyan P and kirkyans V1, V2, V3, etc etc (different virtual versions for each reader platform). And from those millions, perhaps a few thousand become reviewers on just one platform (e.g. V2'3579) and provide feeds back to V2' (V 2 prime - the "master" for that platform). Now V2' sends those on to the others - kirkyan P, kirkyan V1, V3, V4, etc. You can see that the data collected could grow very fast.

Now when you consider all this, filtering out the garbage might be a good idea. But you get to one early stated problem with mp3's. I once read comments by a small label president (very small label) that reminded people that a big part of what they did was help filter the crap (he was defending labels in general). True a few years ago. Not so true anymore. Arguably some web 2.0 systems do this now using social apps and ranking systems. But those social apps are increasingly getting bought up by major corporations, so one has to ask whether there is (again) undue influence in the filtering process. And if not the corporations, it's users who learn how to game a system to gain some personal advantage. These are issues.

Tough nut to crack. I don't have any idea right now how that will all play out, tbh.

"This sentence is for stating clearly that I don't think all documents should be editable by anybody; also note that hackability is not, as I see it, a requisite for kirkyans."

Sorry. I'm editing as I go. Take above comments in the spirit of the moment.

"In my opinion, that's going to be empowered by the cellphone -- or something like it that's soon to come."

I tend to agree. Flexible displays will really offer some advantages to bridging the cell phone with the PC - in terms of visibility/useability.

"Where a kirked person and a kirked "book" talk the same language and recongnize each other as belonging to the same, well, species."

I've come across the idea of "species" before. I actually was careful to exclude living things from the definition of a kirkyan and that was to help avoid this kind of confusion. It's a difficult enough concept I think without including living things. I think at that point we're getting to real artificial intelligence. I was hoping to help bridge the gap between what we had now (complex "AI" algorithms) and true self-awareness. Hence the need for a spime that has DNA and redundancy to ensure survival.

"All kirking things kirk toward intelligence -- whether you want to call that "artificial" or not."

Exactly. And whether they achieve it or not. Some kirkyans will be wiped out. Some will have built-in failsafes to prevent is (I hope the current military systems in development employing UCAVs have this). No system is perfect. Someone could infect the physical with a virus which promulgated the code to every virtual instantiation. Tough to do though. If just one computer is off the net for any length of time, the kirkyan can survive.

"Libraries are ideal breeding and testing grounds for spimes and kirkyans. Libraries could become kirkyan "timesuites". Libraries, their users, and their "books" would join into some kind of new form of life or consciousness. Libraries would become self-aware and ubiquitous."

When you think about it, what is a library? The future library could itself be a kirkyan of sorts. Perhaps we need a new definition for something that collects together kirkyan physical instantiations and tracks all their activity? An "entyary" - enterprise-level collection of kirkyans. Or something like that.'



Anonymous said...

Sven -- I really meant "blobject" with a 'b'. As in ergonomic, roundish, fun-to-use, quickfab, gizmos. I think it's another Sterling term... WE

csven said...

I thought blobject originated with Rashid. ha.

In any event, I've rewritten the wikipedia entry. It doesn't cover everything, but I'm curious to see if people start piecing it together (e.g. how the physical instantiations can provide backup for the virtual in the event of a computer virus).

Anonymous said...

Is it Rashid's word? I've seen some of his designs, and they fo sho are blobby. Isn't he known for blobular chairs? - WE

csven said...

I should have said "with Rashid and his contemporaries". It's a relatively old Industrial Design term. I recall it from the mid-90's; about the time the "blobby" Ford Taurus came out (and it's well-publicized blobby stereo controls).

In the late 80's there was a reaction to all the stiff, geometric shapes that were everywhere. Some of that geometric look was a result of the European/Bauhaus design influence that came over with groups like frog design (working for Apple) and companies like Braun, some of it coming out of academia (European-educated instructors), much of it the result of what was happening in the graphics community (e.g. April Greiman's work), and some simply the result of limited CAD and manufacturing tools.

As designers looked for new inspiration, software (like Alias Studio) starting making inroads and allowing them to free up their forms. There was even an early Lexus (the SC?) that had, as part of it's form development, an exercise in filling balloons with plaster.

Rashid was a part of this whole movement, if I'm not mistaken. He didn't invent it, but is now the one still hanging onto it and making it his own. Another style emerged quickly that evolved this style: new edge. That's mostly attributed to an Art Center student named Nick Pugh ('89, I think). His student work was very influential and everyone I knew was looking at his stuff (I went to one of the better known car design schools). I don't know, but suspect he saw the blobby stuff incubating in the late 80's and didn't care for it and so developed a kind of hybrid style of his own. He was most definitely known for designing cars that broke with the thinking at the time.

After that it evolved into what I called "chisel" (some of my classmates took design in that direction and where hired by companies like Cadillac). And so on and so forth...

Anonymous said...

The idea of "kirkyan as book" makes sense to me, because sentences, paragraphs, and chapters are well-known objects, and suited to the addition of marginalia, footnotes, or even editing.

However, the idea of "kirkyan as hammer", where the hammer knows that its useful life has expired, seems to place an inordinate amount of faith in our ability to understand the state of even the simplest of physical objects.

Unfortunately, it seems we typically cannot tell when hammer handles (or space shuttle tiles) are going to fail. Usually, the technique to "predict" catastrophic failure is to build a redundant system with a weak link, then watch for the weak link to fail.

For example, hard drive failure prediction is done by detecting actual failures; which (at low rates) can be corrected by adding redundant data, such as CRC or EEC bits. Airplane wing supports are visually examined for cracks before take-off--this is literally how planes are determined to be flight-worthy.

Perhaps I am missing something, but the concept of kirkyans seems designed for cute, expensive, high-tech objects such as high-end cellphones or MP3-enabled sneakers.

There may be applications for some type of collaborative work to increase the world's knowledge, but think I am missing the "sharing" mechanism for kirkyan attributes, where the benefit is tangible.

It would be interesting to know if there are any potential ideas about significant real-world applications such as: food, water, clothing, shelter, energy, disease, pestilence, medical care, transportation, and so on.