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>>Mamie Rheingold: You may know Howard Rheingold as a colorful and prescient anthropologist who defined concepts like virtual communities and smart mobs before we were all participating in them. You may know him as the former editor of the 'Whole Earth Review' and the founding editor of 'Hotwired'. Or perhaps you are a student of Howard's either at Berkeley or Stanford or his social media
classroom and online learning community Rheingold's U. Or maybe you know him for his painted shoes, paisley blazer, Panama hat and psychedelic art. In fact we were in SXSW last month, a street person came up to him and thank him for keeping Austin weird. But I know him as Dad.
So 10 years ago, my dad wrote 'Smart Mobs: the Next Social Revolution'. This was years before twitter and 4square, before NFC and Google wallet. My dad wrote about a future in which people will leave messages and places and mobile phones will become remote controls for the physical world. A decade before the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, he predicted that the merger of
mobile phones, personal computers and the Internet were lowering barriers to collective action and were going to enable economic, social and political revolutions. Sound familiar? In 1985, he wrote 'Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind Expanding Technology', in which he envisioned the future of personal computing when hundreds of millions of people
around the world would be a part of a network community. And how this would change the way people think, learn and communicate. He warned that nobody knows whether this will turn out to be the best or the worst thing that the human race has done for itself because the outcome of this empowerment will depend in a large part on how we react to it and what we choose to do with it.
And in his new book 'Net Smart: How to Thrive Online', Howard warns that the future of digital culture depends on how well we learn to use the media that have infiltrated, amplified, distracted, enriched and complicated our lives. And he introduces five essential literacies for the 21st-century. And you'll be able to buy the book for $10 in the back at the end of this talk thanks
to Books Inc. And if you're not able to buy it today, you can go back to Books Inc. and all you need to do is show your Google badge. And I really want this to be a conversation. I'm really excited to be connecting him with you guys. Who are the makers, who are creating the tools that are changing the way people are going to be thinking and living in the 21st-century. So I want to make sure you guys get a chance to ask your questions.
And before I jump in, you probably should know who I am. My name is Mamie, I've been a Googler since May 2006 so coming up on six years. I've worked on grassroots innovation at Google and now on the developer relations team. So, to kick it off I want to ask the question that's on all of our minds. Is Google making us stupid? >>Howard Rheingold: Well you know, I would phrase that question differently.
But it's a really good question to start a conversation. And I strongly believe that if you believe that or fear that our use of social media are making us shallow then why not teach more people how to swim and explore the deep end of the pool. Slight difference which I don't think is semantic, which is I'm really a believer in human agency
and that technologies afford but don't compel behavior. >>Mamie: Okay, so over the last 20 years you've written 'Tools for Thought', 'Virtual Communities Virtual Realities', 'Smart Mobs' why 'Net Smart'? >>Howard: Well I've thought about this a lot. I've been forced to think about it since I wrote in 1985 about where were personal computers going and 1993 about people socializing online.
In 2002 about the combination of the mobile phone and the Internet and the PC. And each point, the question arose either from critics or from scholars or a question that I ask myself which is, is this stuff any good for us? And I've concluded that the way you use a search engine, the way you stream video from
a phone, the way you update your Facebook status matters to you and to me and to everyone because first of all these are the languages that we need to know in order to succeed personally. But, the way we use these media today are going to strongly influence the way they are used and misused for decades to come.
So I think you'll see that there is a theme running through the book which I'm talking about personal empowerment, but I'm also talking about improving the commons. And I think that that is the way to improve the commons. >>Mamie: So I know when you wrote Tools for Thought, you were inspired by Doug Engelbart's 1962 Augmenting Human Intellect. And I want to know, how do you respond to that today? Are we currently living in a future that he envisioned?
>>Howard: Who here has read Doug Engelbart's 1962 paper? Okay. It's worth rereading. I reread it just about every year. But you want to go look at it. It was written in 1962 and everything that's happening here really flowed from that paper. Literally. People talk about the mouse, which is actually hypertext using text processing which became
word-processing. Mixing video and computer images. His laboratory was the first network information Center for the ARPANET. So it's really kind of the root of the technology we use today. And in that paper, he talks about humans using language artifacts, methodology and training. I've talked to Doug over the years about this and he notes the obvious which is that the
artifacts have multiplied multibillion fold. The first electronic digital computer used less RAM than an icon does on a PC today. But the methodology and the training, maybe less so the language, have not evolved so much. And I think that this is a fundamental issue of literacy that faces us every time we have
the technical capabilities to communicate, to encode and decode information in new ways. >>Mamie: Great so you mentioned that literacy. And in Net Smart, you define five essential literacies for thriving in the 21st-century. Attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration and network smarts. And I definitely want to use this conversation to explore each of those literacies.
But first, what do you mean by literacy? And what's the difference between a literacy and a skill? [Pause] >>Howard: Well I'm, I use the metaphor of swimming at the beginning. If you're the only person in the world who knows how to swim and you fall into deep water it will serve you well. If you're the only person in the world who knows how to ride a bicycle, you can still get from place to place faster. If you're the only person in the world who knows how to read and write, or the only person
who knows how to make a link on a webpage, it's not gonna serve you that well. It's not gonna serve anybody else that well. So all of the literacies I talk about attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection and network know-how have to do with both the skill of encoding and decoding. A fundamental alphabetic literacy and ability to read and write. But beyond that individual skill, the ability to use that skill in concert with others.
There is a social connection to all of the skills that we use not only with digital production media, but with the digital networks that propagate and communicate information. >>Mamie: And so why is attention the fundamental literacy for and always on the world? >>Howard: You know, I think I have a slide here that's kind of interesting. Let me search through it.
Oops, I don't have that slide. I had a, I took a screen grab from that mall surveillance camera that I'm sure you've all seen this. It's had millions of hits on YouTube of the young woman who fell into the fountain while she was texting. Pew Internet and American Life Studies have surveyed Americans, and one in six have admitted
into running into something while looking at their phone. And then of course there is what happens when you're in a classroom. If you are professor in a classroom today, you face students who are looking at their laptops. If you are a Googler in a meeting these days, you are facing people who are looking at their laptops. So attention is a fundamental building block of how we think and communicate in any case.
But the media that we carry with us these days really affords distraction. And I really make the distinction; I don't think that online media, social media compelled distraction. But they afforded. And the difference of course is what we know, and what we intend to do. >>Mamie: Hmm And now, so in 2010 Eric Schmidt had this
crazy statistic that every two days humans produce as much information as they did between the era of cave paintings to 2003. And I know people including MG Siegler are declaring e-mail bankruptcy. But this isn't the first time that humans have suffered from information overload. So I want to ask, how to we learn from history? >>Howard: well firstly I'll quote Clay Shirky who often says that there is no such thing
as information overload, it's just filter failure. And I will have to acknowledge, we all have to acknowledge that Eric Schmidt's quote means that the quantitative difference, and the leap that we're taking today means a qualitative difference. But when I was looking into this issue of information overload in the book, I discovered that this is really not the first time that we've dealt with new communication media exploding
dramatically. The amount of information that's available to people. That little clay tablet there is one of the artifacts that led Denise Schmandt-Besserat to figure out where writing came from. Writing was originally about accounting, but it was later exapted to use to encode other kinds of knowledge. And I think that idea of exaptation that humans tend to do both biologically and intellectually.
To adapt something that was involved or invented for one purpose to serve another purpose will serve us well. The idea of information overload goes at least back to the fourth century BC with Ecclesiastes. We also saw in the wake of the Gutenberg revolution, this quote from Adrien Baillet, "The multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries
fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire." Then of course there was Vannevar Bush's 1945 article, 'As We May Think' in which he noted that the summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, but the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to momentarily important items is the same as was used in the days of square rigged ships. This article of course was an inspiration to Doug Engelbart and others.
Every time a new communication information technology makes a flood of information available, people have responded to that by inventing new ways to cope with it. So when scribes hand wrote texts, we got libraries and we got schools and we got scholars.
The first schools are really to teach people how to read and write. And of course the priesthood controlled who had access to that literacy. And the printing press really broke that open. Too much printed information led to many, many things that we take for granted every day. Alphabetization, indexes, subject headings, authors, critics, editors.
A whole ecosystem of human and technical means for dealing with information emerge from that. Now this is a picture of Engelbart talking about humans using language artifacts methodology and training during the mother of all demos. >>Mamie: And you've coined terms like virtual communities and smart mobs. And the word that seems to be defined in Net Smart is info tension, so what do you mean.
>>Howard: Well when I talk about attention, I'll talk about learning to manage our attention. Maybe we'll get back to that in a little bit. >>Mamie: Yeah >>Howard: But I think, in particular, for us, for people in this room. Managing the way we pay attention to information is particularly important. And I've looked at ways in which we could do that. And I think it comes into really two different categories.
But it comes down to developing a sense of mindfulness. Of how we are deploying our attention from time to time. And I'm sure that all of you are to some degree experts in a way that many of my students and others I speak to are not. Mindfulness means being aware of the content of your consciousness at the moment.
What are you paying attention to? That sounds a little spiritual. You can look at metacognition there's a good Wikipedia entry about that. Metacognition expands out a little bit to say that not only is this a skill a learnable skill for recognizing where you are deploying your attention. Developing an awareness of how you're using your awareness. But it also means knowing what all of the different tools in your consciousness toolbox
are. Focused attention, diffused attention, abstraction and analysis. Picking out the one that's useful for the moment. And I think that a lot of what click trances about a lot of what people fear with distraction online has to do with a lack of decision-making about how you're going to spend your attention
from moment to moment. >>Mamie: So attention can be trained? >>Howard: I think so and I've worked on it with my students. I worked on it with myself. I shared some of it with you. I divide that into the cognitive part, and the part that has to do with how you arrange your information tools. Because we all need to make decisions on a second by second, or microsecond by microsecond basis.
What are you going to pay attention to? There is that, if it wasn't for the fact that it was easy to change our attention from what we think we're supposed to be doing we would not have to preponderance of cute cat videos. You will click on that link. You will look at that video. You will see the little red badge that tells you you've got more e-mail or that tells you
that there's an update in Facebook or G+. And you're attracted to it without thinking about it. So the first part of this training is to try to make those decisions more deliberately. And at first, that's slow. Sometimes you open a tab, you're gonna check it out later. Sometimes you tag it, bookmark it because you may not check it out later but when you want to look for it you will be able to find it more easily.
So a method of training, that part of it has to do with matching your attention to the way your tools look on the screen. And I'll get back to that and show you that. I developed this from what I learned from Professor BJ Fogg at Stanford. Who's got a course on developing new habits. And he says start small, find a place for it and repeat.
So I guess I don't have that other slide there, but what I do is write down at the beginning of the day good old right brained hand writing on a piece of 3 x 5 card maybe six or seven words. What are my two or three goals for the day? Sometimes there are no particular goals. I don't have a deadline.
Following each link where it leads is what I'm supposed to do. That's I discover things. Some days I've done a deadline, I've got a get a certain amount of words written by the end of the day. So I put that piece of paper in the periphery of my attention and when my eyesight wanders, it catches sight of that and I ask myself what am I paying attention to right now?
And is that going to get me any closer to where I'm going? I actually learned this technique when I was trying to learn how to do lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is when you realize you're in a dream and you begin directing the action. The way you learn to do lucid dreaming is you write 'am I awake' on a little piece of paper. You put in your pocket and you take it out once an hour and you just develop the habit. Eventually you do that in a dream and you do a little reality test-- >>Audience: [Laughter]
>>Howard: find out. But the best way to do it is to try to fly and if you can fly you're pretty much assured— >>Mamie: [Laughing] That you're dreaming. >>Audience: [Laughter] >>Howard: You're in a dream. You know I think that the same thing applies to metacognition of attention online. In that putting this piece of paper in the periphery of my vision is not meant to police me, but to develop a kind of inner observer that becomes aware of how I'm paying my attention.
What I'm paying attention to. >>Mamie: Hmm. So I know that you turn to Dana Voight often. And in this month's issue of 'Brown Alumni Magazine', she's quoted as saying, "the goal is to be peripherally aware of information as it flows by, grabbing it at the right moment when it is most relevant and valuable entertaining or insightful." And that really resonated with me as I read your book.
And so how do your literacies enable us to do that? >>Howard: You know I've discovered this when I assign my students to follow Twitter and to create some RSS feeds. And I came back the next week and they were all panicked because they couldn't possibly keep up with it. And I realize that I had forgotten to frame it with what I know, and what probably all
of you know which is that this is not a queue, it's a stream. You don't need to check each thing off like a to-do list. You can't. You learn how to sample the stream. You look at-- And a lot of the importance of RSS enables you to scan headlines. Or when you search, you get snippets. So there are informational cues there in the, our dashboards that we need to be able to
use more effectively. >>Mamie: So once we are aware of what information we are paying attention to, we need to validate and verify and filter that information. So tell us how can we all tune our internal crap detectors? >>Howard: So politely you can call this critical consumption of information. Hemingway used the term crap detectors.
He said every good journalist needs an internal crap detector. So I looked into the research on how people search. I'm sorry Dan Russell isn't here, he was one of the sources for the book. And I talked to Dan Russell, the search scientist here. I looked at a lot of the research particularly on how young people search. There's an extraordinarily large number of young people who believe if it's on Google,
it must be true. Of course when Mamie first started using search engines, Google didn't exist it was AltaVista and Infoseek. I used MartinLutherKing.org. Is everybody here aware, anybody here aware of MartinLutherKing.org. Have you ever heard of it before? It's a good site to train people.
So it's one, two, third, it's the fourth hit down on Google the last time I checked. It's called Martin Luther King Jr.: a true historical examination. And it looks like a website about the civil rights leader. If you look at the articles though it takes a really pretty radically dim view of Martin Luther King Jr. And there is an author here so when Mamie said, "Well how do I know what's true and
what's not?" I said, "Well you know, this is, you happen to come along at a very unusual time. For the last thousand years, the authority was vested in the text. You could take the book out of the library. And you might disagree with this, it might even be wrong. But for the most part given that there was an author, editor and publisher who try to check some of the facts in it.
Or the truth claims in it." Of course you put a term into a search engine, there's no guarantee that what you get back is going to the good information. So one thing to do is look for an author, and search on that author's name. Which we were able to do here. But we couldn't find an author for the site itself. So I told Mamie about WHOis. Tell my students about WHOis. Of course if you put MartinLutherKing.org into WHOis it shows you someone by the name
of Don Black at Stormfront.org which turns out to be a neo-Nazi community. This is what's known as a cloaked site. So I've developed a whole collection of sites that I've shown to students to show them that not everything you see online is for real. The free online pregnancy test was a lot scarier at first. They didn't really clue you in to it being a joke.
Now they do. But if you enter a name and click on start pregnancy test a little flash animation comes up and says sit still while we scan you. I entered the name Joe, turns out that Joe is with child. >>Audience: [Laughter] >>Howard: I couldn't help but click on the next one to find out that it's a girl of course. Then I ask "Who's the daddy?" >>Audience: [Laughter]
>>Howard: and if you don't like that, you can choose another one. But by this point you've probably figured out that it's a hoax. But there are lots of sites like, this one looks perfectly legitimate. Nicely designed website. This is about a primate, a mandrel that's been trained to understand English and respond with the keyboard. Totally nonexistent. A lot of teachers use this one. There's the endangered Pacific Northwest tree octopus a completely nonexistent species.
So in the book I go into a lot of detail about this, particularly when you're talking about medical information, Googling your symptoms. There are tools that we can use to find out whether the advice we're gonna get is gonna kill us or help cure us. But I think we have to start by thinking like a journalist or thinking like a detective. And not assuming anything, and looking for clues.
I think searching to learn is very important if you, not just looking for where's the nearest pizza joint. You're trying to learn about something, don't just stop at the first page of results. Look at the snippets that you get and refine your search from what you see in the snippets. They often teach you about that. Look for authors and search on their names and triangulate like any good journalist does.
I remember being online when a rumor came across on Twitter that Egypt had shut down Internet access. Which comes under the category of interesting if true. But there was nothing on Al Jazeera, there was nothing on CNN, there was nothing on BBC. So I put out an inquiry on Twitter about if anybody could give me information that would help me verify that.
One person reminded me that someone I do know is in touch with people in the Middle East and was talking on the phone to someone in Egypt. And I direct messaged them and he verified it. Someone reminded me of Ping. I tried some websites in Egypt and they were down. Finally I saw a news report online. So with three, I was confident that I could pass this information along without it being
a false rumor. Not long before or after that was the Haitian earthquake. And there was a rumor that also went around on Twitter that if you texted a certain phone number it would send money to send medical personnel to Haiti. And that turned out to be a cruel hoax. So I think it's important for people to triangulate, to crap detect themselves before they pass
information along. And I think also you probably heard Ellie Pariser spoke here; speak here about the filter bubble. And some years ago there was Cass Sunstein who wrote in the 'Daily We' about his fear that now that we can roll our own news we're going to be paying more and more attention to sources that we agree with. And a lot of the social psychologist research shows that groups of people who are more homogeneous
in opinion tend to make more radical decisions. So I make it, I make sure that there is someone in my personal learning network whose blog I follow or who I follow on Twitter or otherwise pay attention to regularly. Someone who's intelligent and knowledgeable but with whom I disagree strongly about a number of things. So if nobody in your network annoys you maybe you're in an echo chamber.
So I think we're really talking about a combination of algorithmic social and cognitive tools we need to use. This is not rocket science, it's not even learning the multiplication tables. It's just that this has happened so fast, you're not taught how to search and how to crap detect in school before you do it. >>Mamie: And because you brought up search, I just want, one question I want this audience
to think about is it our responsibility not only to give people answers but to teach them how to ask the right questions? And how to verify those answers. So something to think about. And you brought up news and journalism. And we do all have these broadcasting tools in our pocket. So does that make us all journalist? >>Howard: Well you know one of the things I wrote in 'Smart Mobs' is that it's not hard
to predict that any day now there will be a world changing news event that will be streamed or sent directly to the Internet from someone's phone. And I think the first real worldwide one was the July 2007 tube bombing in London where there is a very blurry picture from someone's phone that was sent from there. So we now have hundreds of millions of reporters.
And I would say that that's a great thing. And that we now are able to crowd source information that you wouldn't be able to get a reporter on-site to before. I think that if you take reports and you look for ways to verify those reports you find what are the different points of view about this report. Can I find a spokesperson for the different points of view?
Can I put that all together into a short compelling narrative that people are going to want to pay attention to? That's what journalists have always done whether they were working with pencils and papers, whether they were working with search engines and smart phones. And I think the difference between a reporter and a journalist does have to do with that set of procedures that they do.
Can more people do that kind of journalism? Absolutely. I don't think that we want to classify having the ability to take a picture or stream video as being a journalist. I think, you are reporting on something. >>Mamie: Hmm, so there is a theme throughout the book that a firm grasp of these literacies will allow you to multiply the value of a public good, while also serving your own self-interest.
And this is connected to what Tim O'Reilly calls the architectures of participation. So tell us more about that— >>Howard: I was— >>Mamie: What does that mean? >>Howard: I was struck by architectures of participation when I wrote 'Smart Mobs'. Because we've always used communication media to do things together in new ways, whether that's writing or print or the telephone.
The particular architecture of the Internet allows us to do things that weren't really possible before. I think, well obviously Google is billed both on attention and in architecture of participation. If millions of people did not put links on their website, you wouldn't have page rank. But essentially what page rank is doing is it's taking that human judgment, that attention
that a blogger or anybody else puts a link on the webpage. They're saying if you're paying attention to me you should pay attention to this. So add in the secret sauce of the formula that attention aggregated becomes a very valuable public good. I don't think people appreciate what a miracle free search is. And of course it's not free, were paying with our attention. And you make some very good money by selling that attention to advertisers.
And another great example was Napster. When Napster first came out, people didn't download music from a server they downloaded music from other Napster users that had the music on their PCs. By default the folder that you download all your music to on Napster is open to everyone else who's on Napster at that moment for them to download. So this is a unique situation in which a population is able to provision a resource, and the act
of consuming it. And I think that that is new. And it is afforded by the architecture of participation. Corrie Doctorow calls this in reference to the tragedy of the comments problem, sheep that shit grass. So I think that we are seeing a lot of different ways that people are able to use online platforms to coordinate all kinds of collective action. And that architectures of participation taken together with our knowledge of how to use
them is going to enable us to do things that are even more fantastic than what we're able to do now. >>Mamie: So what are the different forms of participation? >>Howard: So participation, you know, there are a jillion ways to participate. I just noted a few examples to draw these people's attention to the importance of knowing how to participate.
There was a Harry Potter website that was shut down by Warner Bros. a few years ago. And Heather Lawver organized a worldwide boycott of Warner Bros. and had the Warner Bros. lawyers back off their injunction before they found out that she was 16 years old. Bev Harris was a pretty obscure blogger before she found the source code for the Diebold
voting machines online, and circulated that. Some students at Swarthmore put it up on the Swarthmore server. They were sued by Diebold and federal court found that Americans do have the right to know how their voting machines work. She was an obscure blogger, she wasn't very obscure for very long, that climbed the power law curve to the A-list bloggers very quickly.
You all know who this is, and there's a certain amount of controversy about the role of social media in the Middle East and North Africa and what's sometimes called Arab spring. But there's no doubt that it played an essential role. So talking about people who start multibillion dollar industries when they're 19 or 20 or 21 years old. I emphasize the youth of all these people simply to emphasize that this new literacy,
the ability to know how to participate can lead to real economic and political and cultural power. We've got a huge number of ways to participate. And I love Ross Mayfield's power law of participation in which he plots a threshold with a tool. How easy is it to do with the degree of engagement of the community? And you can start out by, if you are yet another reader of somebody's blog or another follower
of them on Twitter. You're kind of adding to their installed attention base. But you can plus things, you can like things, you can begin tagging and commenting. You can climb that curve, and by the time that you climb that curve you are engaged in a lot of pretty sophisticated ways of participating online. I call one out here. I talk about in my talks.
In the book I get into a lot of detail about the different ways of participation. But curation I think is a very easy lightweight way for people to participate in filtering the web for each other. Crap detection of course only eliminates the bad stuff. How do we float the good stuff up to the top? And so page rank is one way to do it. But also socially, were beginning to curate with each other.
And I know that Google is getting with that idea as well. And we've got all kinds of platforms that are popping up. Most people have heard of Pinterest. But there's also Scoop.it, Pearltrees, Storify. This seems like a natural for Google. It seems to me that curation is a fundamental literacy that is spreading through the population
very quickly. So benefits, we all need to transform information overload into useful knowledge. We need to make those decisions about the utility of all the information that comes across. The architecture of participation means that there is no additional cost to make your decision, your private decision public. And in open-source programming it's called scratching an itch.
When a new printer is created and there's no driver for it and you might as well write it yourself. You might as also contribute that to the public code base. Not only are you signaling that you are a person worth collaborating with, cooperating with. But you are recruiting a team so that when they change the hardware and that printer you've got some people to help you change that. So self-interest that adds up to a public good.
Again this is something that echoes a lot in the book. If you want to establish a reputation of knowing which are talking about a subject then every day tell people I've looked at 100 different websites. And if you are interested in this particular niche these are the five that you ought to pay attention to. If they are interested in that subject, they will know whether you know what you're talking about and spread the word. In fact I think this is like personal search engine optimization.
If you are curating topics that you feel you have some expertise on, people who are looking for information on that topic, people who are looking for experts, are going to find you that way. Now of course we've got knowledge sharing as a form of participation. You've got stack overflow. You've got Quora. I think we are only just beginning to see the different ways that people can participate.
And Henry Jenkins calls the aggregation of a sufficient number of knowledgeable participators "participatory culture." It makes the point that a person who sees themself as a passive consumer culture as a difference since of agency as a citizen than someone who sees himself in however small a way as a producer of culture.
Whether it's just that they're tagging or commenting. And we've got a jillion different ways to participate. And a new one coming up every day. So I think the proliferation of literacies about different ways of participating are enabling people to make their own way personally and professionally more effectively. But in the aggregate, they're adding up to things that are useful to all of us.
>>Mamie: So moving onto the next literacy, I want to know how your thoughts about collaboration changed and evolved since Smart Mobs. >>Howard: So, well I've been thinking about this since 1987 when I wrote about virtual communities. >>.Mamie: Hmm >>Howard: It was very exciting to me that I could sit in my room which I'd been doing with a typewriter for years and communicate with other people and share knowledge with
other people. So now the forms of collaboration. Of collective action. Of cooperation. And there's slightly different definitions— >>Mamie: Yeah. >>Howard: for each of those. Are proliferating. And I think this is probably the most powerful aspect of the cultural revolution we are going through now. Just as the invention of speech was an extremely powerful cultural revolution.
The invention of writing was an extremely powerful revolution. It was what literate people did with those tools. They invented civilization and democracy and science. So I wrote about smart mobs 10 years ago. This picture was from Chile. When I went to Chile and talked about smart mobs there, they said "Oh yes the Penguin Revolution."
Students in Chile wear black and white and gray uniform so they called them penguins. They objected to the very poor funding of public education in Chile by chaining this schools shot and hitting the streets with 700,000 other Chileans. They are still leading a very active dialogue about the role of education in that country. And of course we're seeing Arab Spring; we're seeing Occupy Wall Street.
All kinds of ways that people are able to organize collective action with people they weren't able to organize with before. And at speeds and at scales and in places they weren't able to organize before. And this is only beginning to play out. So, as I said I wrote about virtual communities in 1987. It was pretty obscure then; in fact it took me till 1992 to talk a publisher into backing
a book on this. I was told only electrical engineers will want to use computers to communicate with. So it's kind of hard in retrospect to see how odd it was to do that. But nowadays, whether you are a gamer or you are a cancer patient you are probably connecting with people that you didn't know before and may never meet face-to-face, but who play
a very important role in your life. Of course now we've got distributed computations started with SETI@Home. I usually need to explain this to people— >>Mamie: Not this one, yes. >>Howard: but don't need to explain it here. Folding.stanford.edu. People can, in fact very recently Foldit the game based on folding it home has enabled a group of gamers to solve an important puzzle about the way protease, the enzyme protease,
very important in HIV research. There was a problem about how it folds that had not been solved before gamers did that using distributed computation. So we all know that in a few years most of the human population will be walking around carrying or wearing supercomputers linked at speeds much greater than we consider to
be broadband today. So what kind of computation are we going to be able to do voluntarily? You know when SETI@Home first started, they were at some point the most powerful supercomputer in the world. 19 teraflops. And this was maybe close to a decade ago. Now we've got crowd sourcing. Who here knew Jim Gray, or knows the Jim Gray's story?
So I will just briefly repeat it. Jim Gray was a computer scientist at Microsoft research working on distributed computation. And since he was working on that, he had a lot of friends in the industry. He took his sailboat out one day in San Francisco Bay a couple years ago and did not return that evening. His friends got the latest satellite photographs from NASA from Google.
And Microsoft engineers cut up into half 1 million different images. An Amazon put it up on Mechanical Turk. Got a couple of thousand volunteers to search 3500 square miles of ocean. They did not find Jim Gray. But what was particularly interesting to me about it was that people put this together with ad hoc tools within hours of Jim Gray being reported missing.
So crowd sourcing is not just about a business getting its customers to do work for them. It's about any way that you can cut a task up into a lot of small pieces and somehow induce a population to engage in it. Now we've got crowd funding with this jobs act. The SEC has now made it legal for startups to take up to $2 million in kick starter type
funding. Now we're hearing talk of collaborative consumption. There's a book about collaborative consumption. Probably a lot of you have used airbnb. The ability to share your apartment, share your automobile. These are all things that people weren't able to do before because we weren't able to find out where's the nearest one and when's it available. So again this architecture of participation as it becomes more sophisticated, more location
aware, more time aware, it enables people to build on those platforms more things that they can do together. And of course collective intelligence, Wikipedia is not the end of this. Any time that people can put a small piece of the puzzle together and have that add up to something that makes sense to a lot of people I think is really important. And now we are seeing with You2Me and Khan Academy and P2PU.
There are actually dozens of these platforms for people to learn with each other. You know you've, we've never had the ability before to find out how to do things instantaneously. You can learn how to configure a Drupal installation or tie your shoes on YouTube. Nowadays people are using those things to learn cooperatively. And I think we're really just at the beginning of that.
All of these involve a certain know how. And people who have that know-how will be able to summon these resources more effectively than people who don't. >>Mamie: So jumping ahead to the last literacy. >>Howard: Yeah. >>Mamie: What does it mean to be a networked individual and why are networks important? >>Howard: Well you know a lot of the terms about network awareness.
And a lot of the little pieces of lore come from different disciplines. So there's people in sociology and a network science. So network science is a new one. So we've learned about small worlds. We've learn about the power law. We've learned about the long tail. These all have applications in many different fields. Biology and chemistry and astrophysics.
But the lesson for everybody is that the structure of networks influences the kinds of behavior that can take place in those networks. And the person who knows how a small world network works is going to be more effective online. A lot of the ideas like the presentation of self, Erving Goffman wrote about this decades before the Internet existed. We all give information to others about who we want them to think we are.
We all give off information to others about that they are able to detect about who they think we are. A lot of these ideas about identity and individual is network individualism moves from the kind of community centric era of the virtual community where you found people who were sharing a, their interest in a particular subject they connected with the individuals.
Now of course we carry our networks in our pocket. We're able to summon our social networks and were at the center of our social network. And they're intersecting. There's a difference between a group with sociologists say is densely knit. Most of the people in the group know each other and is tightly bound. There are very few connections with the outside world. And a network which is sparsely knit there are a lot of people in my network and in your
network who don't know each other. And it's loosely bound. There are people from outside the network, in fact that's how a small world network happens. A small number of connections in Italy. If I know someone in Italy, I get information to them much, much faster just that way. So a lot of these ideas that sociologists have been looking at. Social capital is a particularly useful one.
The idea that people can get things done together outside the formal institutions of contracts or laws. How do they do that? Well there's bridging capital, there's bonding capital and there is reciprocity. One of the things I discovered looking at the sociology of reciprocity is that there is empirical research that shows that the probability that someone will offer you help
online is most strongly predicted by whether you have offered help to others online. So I think, as I said this is not rocket science or algebra but if you learn about the ways this strong ties and weak ties are important to people. If you learn the way that social media and viral media are adding up to what Manuel Castells is calling a networked society.
He has said with a lot of empirical backup that it's not really accurate to say were in an information society. We are in a networked society and we've always been involved in social networks. But the technical network that connects us today amplified that innate human sociology in ways that make all kinds of things that used to be impossible possible.
Networked publics and the connections between these I think make for someone who's got network know-how. >>Mamie: So before we turn it over to Googlers. You know these are the people who are building these tools. So I wanted to give you a chance to sort of what your parting questions for this audience? What you want these guys leaving with? >>Howard: So to what degree are you in the know how business?
And how do you extend that? I remember that Microsoft had a really famous failure when they had the talking paperclip. Remember the talking paperclip— >>Mamie: Clippy >>Howard: It's tremendously annoying. It's a hard problem. How do you, you've got a lot of data about how people behave and you don't want to freak them out about that either. So I think that there is some Googlers who like hard problems.
I think the hard problem not just how do you improve search, how do you include more and more information in the information you're organizing but how do you enable people to climb that power law of participation? How do you enable them to learn to search to learn more effectively? One you know when I was looking at the crap detection of medical information, the National
Institutes of Health do have a browser add-on. So when you are browsing to websites that claim to have medical information, you can find out whether they approve or not. So I think, and I'm sure that you are thinking about this. There's some combination of crowd sourced social crap detection, social verification. And algorithmic ways of determining it that we need to develop.
The more bad information there is online, the more crucial that information is. The more effective we need to make the ways we evaluate that information as individuals. >>Mamie: and we have a microphone so I want to invite you guys to ask questions. >>male#1: I have a question related to the concept of the filter bubble. You mentioned that a strategy for avoiding that is seeking dissenting opinions or at
least including some of those. I think there's a risk there that you end up with not being able to tell what the truth is because you just hear two different sides of a story. And in a lot of recent current events there definitely two completely opposing sides to the story and it's almost impossible to know what the truth is. So my question is what are your thoughts about whether the filter bubble is sort of a human
nature problem that people are going to gravitate towards a position where they just vote based on wishful thinking? And what are some strategies that people can use to avoid that and get to actual truth as opposed to pleasing fiction? >>Howard: Well the actual truth of the melting point of sodium is pretty easily determined.
The actual truth of did this person commit a crime? We've developed this system where we have advocates for both sides and we randomly select people to make a decision. So I think that there's really a continuum. The word truth, we tend to put a T on that and think that there is a truth.
You know I noted on, I noted this thing about if there isn't someone in your network who you regularly disagree with or who regularly annoys you then you're in an echo chamber. And someone else on Twitter said nobody in their network disagreed about the Trayvon/Zimmerman case.
And I said "Well, is nobody talking about the rights of the accused here?" And the person immediately went off on an advocacy of arresting this person. But of course the law is about protecting the rights of the most despised. So we develop these institutions to deal with some of the problems that have arisen from
human natural capacities to believe what they want to believe. Cognitive dissonance. There's a whole psychological study about how people will, and you can influence people's beliefs very, very easily by showing them information in one way or the other. So the truth is hard to find. I think just knowing that you can't accept all the information that comes across your screen at face value is very significant.
There's a difference there in terms of truth seeking. I think the scientific method was a great advance in truth seeking. We can argue theologically and philosophically about things that can never be proven. But if we're arguing about the melting point of sodium than let's just get that sodium out and a thermometer and find out. [Pause] >>male#2: Hi. One of the things that I find very disturbing at work is that we continue to use e-mail
in ways that seem inappropriate. I mean I think it's great for a conversation, but we use it to indicate status changes in all sorts of things like that. And I was wondering, but I can't think of an alternative that would work as well because e-mail is so universal. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about alternatives to e-mail that we should be working
on. >>Howard: You know I ranted about this for so long so long ago that I actually stopped ranting about it. But you know there's some basic literacies. How about having an appropriate subject line, or a subject line at all. Or a subject line that doesn't say about your e-mail. People here are more sophisticated than that. But believe me, most of the people in the enterprise world are not.
How about not CCing everybody in the world. I did a, there was something when I was doing consulting for a company in Asia. And someone sent out a message saying the Singapore office will be closed on Friday. And I'm in California. So I found out how many people receive that message. 17,000 people in the world had to know that the Singapore office was closed on Friday.
A lot of these things are best done with wikis, and you know that. And Google Docs. It's a matter of training people to use them. >>male#2: You gave me a couple ideas, thank you. >>Mamie: Cool. I think we are out of time. But thank you for coming and you can buy books in the back. >>Howard: And I'll sign them [Applause]
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