Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Agora

This week I reviewed an interesting paper: New Agora: New geometry of languaging and new technology of democracy.  The paper discusses the need for "a technology of democracy" and the importance of overcoming the propensity toward Spreadthink and Groupthink.  The paper also proposes a Structured Design Dialogue Process (SDP). I'm still trying to comprehend the complexities of this process, but my initial impression is that the SDP would be useful in helping to understand diverse points of view about contentious or complex topics.  I particularly like step b (Frame and Focus on a Triggering Question).  For my Nano Cardiology Technology (NanoCT) innovation, I could formulate a triggering question such as: "How could nano technology be used to treat cardiovascular diseases?"  A group of experts (nano technology experts plus physicians with expertise in cardiology) could then follow the SDP to determine if NanoCT is viable, and if so, what areas should research be focused on.

What's not clear to me is whether the SDP would be better than the Delphi method.  The biggest difference I see between the two, is that SDP has the experts collaborate directly while Delphi keeps the experts anonymous from each other.

I'd like to do more research on SDP to determine where/how it's been used successfully (and unsuccessfully) before making a decision on using it versus the Delphi method.

SDP Steps (Schriebman & Christakis, 2008)

Social - GroupThink and SpreadThink are the results of the way we act in most societies.  When innovating and trying to come up with unique and individual ideas from all participants, we have to find ways to avoid these types of thinking.

Political - The main purpose of the New Agora paper is to address the need for "a technology of democracy".  The authors articulate their belief that we should all strive for true democracy and majority rule.  There are many people would would disagree with this philosophy and reject the SDP based on political bias rather than the merits of the SDP.


Schriebman, V., & Christakis, A. N. (2008). New Agora: New geometry of languaging and new technology of democracy. Updated version 2008. Journal of Applied Systemic Studies.  Retrieved from

Christakis, A. (n.d.).  The SDP Process.  Retrieved from:

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I believe that the most important benefits of technology lie in the field of medicine.  Technology is enabling doctors to better diagnose and treat patients.  I experienced the benefits of technology in a recent hospital stay.  Doctors used some very high tech imaging devices to quickly identify the source of my illness (it took about 30 minutes from the time I arrived at the emergency room) and started treatment immediately after diagnosis.  Just a few years ago this would not have been possible and the diagnosis would have taken much, much longer.

In the future, nanotechnology will dramatically change medicine.  In fact, the U.S. National Science Foundation estimates that half of all medical treatments and drugs could be affected by nanotech (Halal, 2008).  From cancer fighting nanobots to nanocams that enable doctors to see internal organs, nano-medicine will change the way medicine is practiced.

Here's a link to an interesting article on the future of nanomedicine.

Technological - Nano technology will need to be significantly advanced in order to support medical needs.

Ethical - Testing and experimentation on human subjects for nano medicine will have to be done in accordance with national and international ethics rules.


Halal, W. E. (2008). Technology's Promise: Expert Knowledge on the Transformation of Business and Society. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Traffic & AI Video

My first time using Animoto.

Try our video maker at Animoto.

Artificial Intelligence Predictions

I read an interesting article at ptucker's blog on A.I.  The article talks about the current and future impacts of AI on our daily lives. For example, SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique) is an example of AI currently being used to manage traffic in metropolitan areas.  In the article, the author also talks about the future of AI.  He predicts that AI will be used to help parse through the ever increasing amount of data that we create and collect.  Practical application of sifting through volumes of data include, better intelligence for the military, medical solutions, and better prediction capabilities that allow machines to solve human problems without the human even asking.

In order for these AI predictions to come to fruition, a few factors come into play.  First, computational power must increase.  Processing large volumes of data - especially media such as photographs or video -- takes a lot of computing horsepower.  And think of the use of AI in automobiles and the volume of continuously changing variables.  Another factor is willingness of humans to accept AI into our lives.  Will people ever be willing to allow AI to drive them on highways?  Are we willing to fly on airplanes without a human pilot?

Technological- The use of artificial intelligence to manage traffic shows great promise.  There's enough research and theory, e.g., queuing theory, to support automation of traffic management.

Ethical - Traffic AI relies upon sensors and cameras that are constantly watching roads, cars, and the people in the cars.   Law enforcement already uses traffic cameras to help identify criminals.  However, many people are concerned (rightly in my opinion) about privacy and the ethics of using the sensors and cameras to track specific individuals.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Delphi and NGT

This week I did some research on Delphi and NGT techniques.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Delphi or NGT, they're techniques to help achieve consensus by a small group of people on a specific topic.  The Delphi methodology begin as a forecasting tool for science and technology.  Organizations used Delphi to assess the direction of long-term trends such as population control, weapon advancements, and automation.  NGT was developed with more of a focus on making quick decisions by a group that incorporate feedback from all participants.  There is also a Modified NGT designed specifically to conduct course evaluations.

When it comes to trying to predict whether a new tool, technology, or innovation is going to be successful, I would recommend the traditional Delphi technique (compared to a modified Delphi technique that doesn't keep particpants anonymous).  After all, Delphi was developed specifically for this purpose.

Delphi Method Implementation
Some rights reserved by Martin Erpicum

For some additional reading: 
Rowe and Wright (1999): The Delphi technique as a forecasting tool: issues and analysis. International Journal of Forecasting, Volume 15, Issue 4, October 1999.

The Delphi Method:Techniques and Applications,Harold A. Linstone and Murray Turoff, Editors © 2002, Murray Turoff and Harold Linstone, TOC III.B.3. The National Drug-Abuse Policy Delphi: Progress Report and Findings to Date, IRENE ANNE JILLSON {

Bartunek, J.M., & Murnighan, J.K. (1984). "The nominal group technique: Expanding the basic procedure and underlying assumptions", Group and Organization Studies, 9, 417-432.

Social - One of the benefits of Delphi is the anonymity of the participants.  This helps prevent groupthink which is prevalent in so many societies.

Temporal - The Delphi method can be very time consuming.  The facilitator meets with the participants separately and must process data between each iteration/reformulation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Robot Bird

A team in Europe developed the world's first robot that actually flys like a bird.  The video below shows how Markus Fischer and his team at Festo used nature as their inspiration for a flying robot.  Their design uses ultralight components and wings specially constructed to mimic the flapping of a real bird.  The video includes a brief overview of the design by Mr. Fischer and a demonstration of the robot flying over the audience.  Some ideas to consider: 1) How else can we use nature to design technical solutions? and 2) How can advancements in ultralight/lightweight technologies help in the design of other technologies?

Technological -  The technology behind the light-weight composites was key to making this innovation successful.

Environmental - The designers used their natural environment (birds) to help in their design.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pinch My Mac

The other day I opened my Macbook Pro and noticed a bunch of fingerprints on the screen.  I turned to my wife and asked if she knew why I have fingerprints on my computer screen.  She was surprised and immediately grabbed some wipes (she hates smudges more than I do).  I went about my work and didn't think about it again - until yesterday.  Each week we do a family dinner with the kids, their significant others and my in-laws.  After dinner yesterday, I notice that my father-in-law is doing some web surfing on the Macbook Pro.  He gets to a web site with some pictures of cars (he's a big car guy) and then he does something I found strange.  He starts "pinching" the screen on the Macbook.  I asked him why he was doing that and he told me he's trying to make the picture bigger like he does on his iPhone.  Ahhhh-- now I know where those fingerprints came from!

What I learned from this experience is tablets and smartphones have changed the way we interact with technology.  My 71 year-old father-in-law found it intuitive to pinch a picture on a screen to change the size.  This method worked on his iPhone so it should work on a computer too.  Right?  

The New Media Consortium (NMC) published their 2012 New Horizon Report back in February.  You can find a copy on the NMC Wiki.  The report discusses gesture-based technology (like pinching a screen) and how it's enabling students to learn by doing.  What a great concept!  One of the cool technologies talked about in the report:

Zero Touch
Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a multi-touch system from infrared sensors that allows precision free-air interaction. Users reach into a frame lined with sensors, and can use their hands, elbows, arms, head, or any object, such as a pen, to create compositions on their computer screens. 

Here's a picture of a young girl using the Zero Touch (from the Interface Ecology Facebook page).

I think gesture-based technology has already changed the way we interact with computers and the days of mice and keyboards may be numbered!

Technological - advances in touch screen technology are changing the way we interact with computers.  The iPad and iPhone in particular have made swiping and pinching of screens a common practice.

Global - smart phones, tablets and other devices that use touch screens are used across the globe.  The days of localized keyboards may be numbered.