Thursday, August 02, 2007

Catching up

I'm not at work this week, yippee! It's great to not have to go into Exeter every day* - not that I don't love my colleagues (just in case they're reading). I've not gone away, just using the time to chill out and, more usefully, catch up with stuff I've either neglected or just got behind with. My personal email inbox has grown far bigger than my work one - that can't be a good thing.

Now is not the best time to report on Wepoco progress. Things are happening but it's still quite political, so I'll do the link thing.
As I shall be giving a talk at web2fordev I've been keeping one eye on what others are saying about web 2.0 and the like. Are you looking for answers? Here's a quote that caught my attention.

"Web 2.0 flips the information delivery model upside down — it's now about global access, and information at your fingertips, aggregated from sources that you don't even necessarily know about, or care where they exist. Based on a set of search criteria, information in all its rich forms — media, video, audio, images, documents, text — all will be assembled together in context and delivered to users and applications for real-time experience. ",1000002138,39288093,00.htm

Oh dear, surely this is just a poor expression of the "semantic web" not at all what I though web 2.0 was about - wikipedia being one example of the web2.0 phenomenon, social networks (MySpace, LinkedIn, etc), blogs, and mashups being others.

Anyway, I'll save my further thoughts on that for the conference. My "are you looking for answers?" line reminds me of something I read today. This time it's a quote that reads "there may be 10,000 civilisations capable of communicating with us". It's from the Radio Times, an article about Adam Hart-Davis's new TV series. My thoughts are - sure, and there might be none. It's not that I don't believe that there might be planets elsewhere with living creatures, or that some of those creatures might be able to do remarkable things such as fly, it just that I don't see why they should be capable of communicating with us, after all what possible evolutionary benefit might that have? Anyone with pets or livestock knows it can be damned hard communicating face to face with non-human species on our own planet, and in almost all cases impossible at any distance.

Clearly intelligent communication is not something that is easily achieved between species. The fault though can't be with other species, it must be with our own. After all, we appear to be not just slightly smarter than other species on our own planet, but a lot a smarter. That doesn't make sense if being smart was a survival thing. After all, antelope don't run ten times faster than cheetahs. So with no obvious next smartest predator (or prey) the best thing I can suggest for why humans are so smart is that it looks good, like a peacock's tail. Which sort of explains why women like men with a sense of humour and why women make good interviewers when you're looking to hire smart folks.

So I'm left thinking that SETI probably shouldn't be scanning the universe for prime numbers, or whatever they think they might find, but they need to be looking for a joke - and perhaps also consider what sort of alien would be looking for a human date!

*every day - note the space, it matters!

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