It’s time for 23musings.com to die (in its current form). I won’t be updating this blog anymore as I have a new home on the web at www.steve-e.co.uk which includes a blog www.steve-e.co.uk/blog.

I will be moving over some of the more popular posts from here (and deleting them off 23Musings. Sadly WordPress.com doesn’t offer a redirection option.

Thanks for reading 23musings over the years, I hope you’ll read my musings over on my new site.

If you read the title and thought this was a blog post about broadband speeds you’ll be disappointed. Equally if you thought this was about social media you may want to move along. This is purely a musing about something that hit me the other day while watching a show on TV (and perhaps what some would call a pipe dream).

I was watching a BBC programme called Future of Food, a decent enough look at the current (and growing) global food crisis and how it could affect us all in coming years. Part of the program discussed the current trend for food being grown abroad (the example was Kenya), in developing countries often facing a food crisis themselves, specifically to feed the needs of another market (in this case the UK). The vegetables being grown year round in Kenya all grow perfectly well in the UK but only seasonally, so the argument here is that consumers want a supply throughout the year and the only option is to grow abroad. So that made me think; if we had a global policy for growing seasonal produce and an open borders import/export/trade process could the food crisis be lessened or even halted in its tracks?

Bear with me, I didn’t jump straight to that conclusion. Rather the way the programme portrayed the inequality of food growing and distribution made me think of Buckminster Fuller and one of his ideas which has (unfortunately) never come to fruition. If you don’t know who Buckminster Fuller is I suggest you read up on him, but essentially he was an inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician, poet and cosmologist (there are more categories you could put him in), one of the greatest thinkers in history. He had many ideas and inventions, a lot of which never came to fruition. One of those was the Global Energy Grid.

Buckminster Fuller came up with the following question as part of his World Game simulation; ‘How do we make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?‘ From this question Bucky came up with the idea of interconnecting the worlds power grid, nation to nation. This would enable sharing of this most precious resource (energy was in his eyes one of the things that decided the rich from the poor and the developed from the developing). The grid of energy networks would allow energy to be produced in one nation for their daytime use and passed on to the next as a surplus. Benefits of such a network included reduced demand on fossil fuels, reduced capital investment in individual nations energy generation networks, new markets for electricity sales, brings income to developing nations, saves transporting fossil fuels as they could be processed at source amongst others (many detailed here).

So, a good idea (probably not explained so well by me), but it made me question whether networking our resources is actually the way to go in areas other than energy. Networked food distribution, the example I was thinking about, would allow food to be produced where it grew best (in the right seasons) and to be shared/sold across borders in both directions (key, as this is very much one way right now). If people (and governments) could step outside their localised view of the world we live in and work towards holistic, globally inclusive approaches to every day problems would we be in a better state as a world of nations than we are now? The food crisis is a good example as some nations have surplus and others don’t have enough, a socially co-operated network of food distribution where developed nations pay developing ones for growing their favourite exotic fruit and veg in return for selling them our surplus of other staples they require could benefit people greatly. It could also give some dignity back to nations tired of living on agency delivered charity relief and stimulate economic growth.

At the moment everything is very one-way and unequal, which doesn’t encourage growth and can for example cause nations to become dependent on sales to foreign supermarkets. Given a system of equality and a network of distribution and sharing of resources both the developed and the developing nations of the world would benefit (we get what we as consumers desire and they get to be more self sufficient and to be able to trade equally with us).

Can I see the global level of cooperation required to instigate any of these ideas in the future? Right now no; not without a major change of mindset in government and industry. That’s not to say there aren’t opportunities for some entrepreneurial types to set up micro-networks which provide opportunities to smallholders in an equal and fair trade way.

Networks create good relationships; we all know that from social media, cooperative initiatives and co-working spaces, why can’t similar models be utilised to increase social goodness across the globe?

Cloud based computing and data storage is something that I find fascinating. The whole concept of moving away from rigid hosting centres to a distributed system, where data just flows around the web and gets requested and added to by apps and services also in the cloud opens up so many possibilities. Where cloud based computing is going is anyones guess but this great article by Carl Hewitt on O’Reilly Radar gives makes a good assumption at where the storage of personal data could be going and identifies a lot of the issues that will arise around privacy and regulation (good read).

clouds

The interesting stuff on privacy etc aside, it was Carl’s description of personal ‘client’ clouds in particular that drew me to write about it. This is something I’ve been thinking of for a while; particularly with reference to the data that services like Facebook, Twitter, Delicio.us and Flickr store on my behalf. At the moment that data is hosted by each service provider in their choice of data centre and data from other services can only interact with it with the help of OpenAuth, Facebook Connect and other ID services I can subscribe to. What I’d really like to do is hold my data myself, perhaps in a client cloud, and make it accessible to the services I choose.

This led me to think; could services like Facebook and Twitter work on a cloud data model whereby they don’t host anything for you apart from basic identity mapping to enable you to log in? Once logged in your data would be accessed by the application (say Twitter for example) from your client cloud storage solution using an identity key so the experience wouldn’t change. As broadband speeds increase, storage becomes cheaper still and processing speeds go up this should be possible if the privacy issues could be overcome. Imagine being able to take real control over what data you leave behind and actually have the option to disclose data to applications to make them usable but then update that and keep it with you in your storage repository. Every user would have an API key for each web app allowing the services to continue to work when you’re not ‘online’ (although in this scenario you’re data is always online) so functionality wouldn’t be affected.

Of course Facebook and co. want your data to enable them to target their ads better. If we owned our data then we’d be able to allow them access to whatever pieces we wanted to release for advertising purposes. Happy with them being able to target you based on factors such as what sex you are and location but don’t want them to target you based on the last product you recommended? If you owned your data then that would be possible.

The ability to have all your data available to then share with other apps and mashups make this a very attractive proposition to me. I think we’ll begin to see web apps which leave the data on your hard drive soon (in fact there probably are some already), so how much longer till we take that a step further and put all our data in the cloud?

I’ve written extensively about microfinance and microinsurance over on Artemis.bm. They’re two concepts within the financial and insurance worlds which are actually having positive impacts on citizens in developing countries, further work is of course needed to ensure they remain ethical and well thought through but right now they’re a positive thing (most of the time).

So I came across this post on the great Springwise.com blog which talks about a technology which is aiming to help Indian farmers in similar ways to the index-based monsoon weather insurance cover I’ve discussed on Artemis.bm. It’s a way for farmers to control irrigation on their crops, vitally important tech in India, but with the added benefit of being able to check on whether the electricity is working to enable irrigation too. Farmers have real issues with power being cut from their irrigation systems. The best bit, it’s controlled from your mobile phone, something many people in India have, and mobiles are devices that have even been pulled in to help with microinsurance schemes.

It’s a great idea and demonstrates tech that is simple, easy for citizens of developing countries to understand and genuinely helps them out. Anyone got any other good examples of micro-tech?

RIP Arthur C. Clarke

March 19, 2008

Such a shame when someone who has influenced you passes on. Arthur C. Clarke has died early this morning at his home in Sri Lanka. I’m a huge fan of his books and his thinking in general. I recommend you all go and find out more about him.

Incommunicado

December 21, 2007

I'm off to Japan for the festive season. Will resume blogging in the new year. Have a good break all!

Techcrunch carries the news that MySpace is going to be launching their own developer platform and opening it up next week. It’s the latest move from them to counter the Facebook effect. I believe this is too late, adding the kind of apps that Facebook is carrying is not going to give MySpace traction to overtake them. They need some serious innovation and ideas that will really add value to the user experience if they are to stand a chance.

The MySpace exodus is growing amongst my peers, it surely can’t be long until the exodus spreads to the more typical MySpace user base.