Friday, September 11, 2009

Exploring Pathways of Vision, Sight and Insight

This blog started off as a personal trek to explore new paradigms. It has succeeded in doing that for myself and hopefully some few others along the way. These paradigm pathways have a tendency to cross over one another and create opportunities for serendipity. Even though the rule in blogging is too focus on one idea in short narratives, my habit is to ignore that advice and attempt to link different ideas. Two important sources for new ideas are TED and MIT for seeking pragmatic solutions and personal wisdom in redefining one's self as its says in the header.

Recently, I came across four videos from both sources that had a common set of themes, brain, cognition, vision, but also led to other pathways of compassion and social change. All involved understanding, but used different applications of that word.

In this episode of TEDTalks (video) on Tom Wujec on 3 ways the brain creates meaning - Tom Wujec (2009) -

Information designer Tom Wujec talks through three areas of the brain that help us understand words, images, feelings, connections. In this short talk from TEDU, he asks: How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas?

Cognitive psychologists now tell us that the brain doesn't actually see the world as it is, but instead, creates a series of mental models through a collection of "Ah-ha moments," or moments of discovery, through various processes.

So making images meaningful has three components. The first again, is making ideas clear by visualizing them. Secondly, making them interactive. And then thirdly, making them persistent. And I believe that these three principles can be applied to solving some of the very tough problems that we face in the world today. Thanks so much.

The next two videos from MITWorld, though longer in length, are well worth watching.

The first continues with the exploration of cognition and vision through - Computers with Commonsense: Artificial Intelligence at the MIT Round Table

Patrick Henry Winston ponders what makes humans different from our primate cousins. His field of artificial intelligence extends that question to thinking about how humans differ from computers, with a goal to "develop a computational theory of intelligence."

"We think with our eyes…vision is the locus of every profound kind of problem solving."

Play Video

Patrick Henry Winston

The next MITWorld video takes us back to the human and to the humane -

Opening the Mind’s Eye-Learning to See

"Whenever we're asked how the brain does X or Y, the impulse is to work with this beloved creature, the human infant, to see how it acquires different capabilities... But there are challenges: Babies are not interested in being experimental subjects. They'd rather sleep than give us good data."

Play Video

Pawan Sinha

The reason the Pawan Sinha video goes beyond interesting to inspiring is because
Sinha found these subjects in his native India, which has the world’s highest number of blind children -- more than one million. They are victims of Vitamin A deficiency, congenital cataracts, and absent or atrocious medical care. But salient to Sinha’s research, many of these blind children could be treated. He glimpsed a humanitarian and scientific opportunity, and Project Prakash (Sanskrit for light) was born .

It’s rare to find research that simultaneously advances basic science and brings immediate good into people’s lives, but Pawan Sinha’s Project Prakash does precisely that. An investigator of human visual processing, Sinha is interested in how these brain mechanisms develop, and in treating India's vast population of blind children.

The final video is another short one from TED and deals again with vision, but vision both from the idea of seeing and the idea of envisioning a new world. Both aspects of our understanding are necessary to bring about this new world, the understanding of our world and nature and the understanding we must show to each other.

Atomic physicist Joshua Silver invented liquid-filled optical lenses to produce low-cost, adjustable glasses, giving sight to millions without access to an optometrist. At TEDGlobal 2009, he demos his affordable eyeglasses and reveals his global plan to distribute them to a billion people in need by 2020.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Digging through Web 2.0 for Feelings and Facts and Fraternity

My last few posts used slacktivism to make a point about online activism, but the lesson that I have taken from my blogging and wanted to pass on to others is that Web 2.0 tools can be used to tell the story of a cause not just the facts. The story of a cause goes to the heart or the meaning of a cause and why someone should join, not merely the facts of the issue.

The World Wide Web may have started transmitting only data, but it has evolved into something more and is continuing to evolve.

Change-agent organizations need to understand and adapt these new means of connection, communication and collaboration. It is a balance between pulling on people's feelings and getting them to be part of some larger cause and providing the facts so that they can make up their own minds and find new means of working together.

From the New York Times TECHNOLOGY / INTERNET | August 24, 2009 By ALEX WRIGHT

Mining the Web for Feelings, Not Facts

The universe of reviews, ratings and recommendations online open a tantalizing window on the collective consciousness.
“Social media used to be this cute project for 25-year-old consultants,” said Margaret Francis, vice president for product at Scout Labs in San Francisco. Now, she said, top executives “are recognizing it as an incredibly rich vein of market intelligence.”

Here are two TED Talks featuring Clay Shirky, who in the first TED Talk looks at how the end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics, Iranian protestors streaming news to the world, showing how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news by bypassing censors (if all too briefly).

The second TED Talk examines how the Internet and Web 2.0 can enhance collaboration.