Agreed, but what about our future and it's urgent needs to develop profound knowledge from a
"global-brain" for "virtual diplomacy" in international conflict resolution, and terrorism
counterintelligence? Are we destined to ask the question posed by T.S. Eliot:
"Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge?" or will we convert that knowledge into information of
Well, here's what former Vice President Al Gore had to say (speech circa 1998) in a more global
context. (This is especially important in regards to our urgent complex problems today; whether its
involving terrorism, peace, and international conflict resolution or fighting crime, preserving
biodiversity, predicting climate change):
The Digital Earth: Understanding our planet in the 21st Century (aka: Project OpenEyes and "Virtual
Diplomacy": Remote-Sensing Operations in Humanitarian Emergencies)
"A new wave of technological innovation is allowing us to capture, store,
process and display an unprecedented amount of information about our planet and
a wide variety of environmental and cultural phenomena. Much of this information
will be " georeferenced" - that is, it will refer to some specific place on the
The hard part of taking advantage of this flood of geospatial information will
be making sense of it. - turning raw data into understandable information.
Today, we often find that we have more information than we know what to do with.
The Landsat program, designed to help us understand the global environment, is a
good example. The Landsat satellite is capable of taking a complete photograph
of the entire planet every two weeks, and itís been collecting data for more
than 20 years. In spite of the great need for that information, the vast
majority of those images have never fired a single neuron in a single human
brain. Instead, they are stored in electronic silos of data. We used to have an
agricultural policy where we stored grain in Midwestern silos and let it rot
while millions of people starved to death. Now we have an insatiable hunger for
knowledge. Yet a great deal of data remains unused.
Part of the problem has to do with the way information is displayed. Someone
once said that if we tried to describe the human brain in computer terms, it
looks as if we have a low bit rate, but very high resolution. For example,
researchers have long known that we have trouble remembering more than seven
pieces of data in our short-term memory. Thatís a low bit rate. On the other
hand, we can absorb billions of bits of information instantly if they are
arrayed in a recognizable pattern within which each bit gains meaning in
relation to all the others ó a human face, or a galaxy of stars.
The tools we have most commonly used to interact with data, such as the "desktop
metaphor" employed by the Macintosh and Windows operating systems, are not
really suited to this new challenge. I believe we need a "Digital Earth". A
multi-resolution, three-dimensional representation of the planet, into which we
can embed vast quantities of geo-referenced data."
more .... < http://digitalearth.gsfc.nasa.gov/VP19980131.html >
In summary, "the mental process of reading dispatches is very different from today's instant
publishing on CNN with images of body bags at New York City, Washington D.C, and Pennsylvania."
Furthermore, "when the method of creating wealth changes, so does the power structure" and the
"internet standard is much more draconian than the gold standard." As we move to the virtual
community of the future and spread technology around the world, we must keep in mind the impact of
these tools on the common man and provide more incentives for peace than warfare. Perhaps that is
what "virtual diplomacy" by the U.S. Institute of Peace < http://www.usip.org/oc/virtual_dipl.html
>, etc., is all about.
No time to read? Let a computer do it, Programs can quickly summarize long reports to help
overburdened humans (aka OHS/DKR?).
4/4/99 (The Washington Times)
"Computer technologies developed for NASA and the CIA can summarize in minutes
documents that normally would take days to read. The Department of Energy's
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been working on 15 technologies that
visualize information for scientists, government agencies, businesses, law
firms, medical researchers and others looking for quick summaries of large
"Our technology is aimed at helping people who are overloaded with information
and can't find what they need," says Beth Hetzler, senior research scientist at
Pacific Northwest, which is operated by Battelle.
"We want to assist people in getting to the right information that will help
them in the least amount of time."
Pacific Northwest has teams working with each of the technologies to enhance and
expand the computer's capability to visualize text, image data, sound, voice,
video and numerical data.
"Our goal is to reduce the time a person needs to spend reading long articles,"
says Rick Littlefield, senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest. "This
technology allows a person to determine if that document possesses pertinent
information and deserves further attention. A person can understand what
information is in a document, what themes it covers and whether it requires
The technology works by creating visual images to describe and summarize data.
It is based on evidence that the human mind rapidly perceives and learns from
information conveyed through pictures.
"Our vision is a very useful resource, and a person can get a lot of information
without even realizing it just by looking at pictures," Miss Hetzler said.
"We can take advantage of, and benefit from, information without being
overwhelmed by it."
In 1998, the U.S. intelligence community paid $200,000 for development of Topic
Islands, a software program that transforms data from large documents into
excerpted summaries and visualizations. It recognizes themes and unfolding
topics within the document, and breaks them down into sections that are easy to
The most developed of the technologies are the Special Paradigm for Information
Retrieval and Exploration (SPIRE) programs. These programs read and summarize a
document, organize the information and create a map of the data on the screen.
When the information from thousands of different documents is combined, patterns
and relationships - some unexpected - emerge.
The first program developed was Galaxies, which uses the image of stars in the
night. The stars cluster together in the visualization when documents are
closely related; unrelated information is separated by large distances.
Another program, WebTheme, gathers data from the World Wide Web using search
terms, or links derived from user-specified Web addresses, and probes the
volumes of textual information. NASA is using this tool.
"Much of the information people are buried under is from the Internet, and this
Java-based tool is a great application," said Dennis McQuerry, a research
scientist at Pacific Northwest who works with SPIRE programs.
Using Topic Islands, a person can open a document, then come back to the system
when it is done analyzing and find an overview, outline and pictures. After
looking at this, the user can type questions to the computer, which will
highlight words related to the question in the document.
Researchers at Pacific Northwest are optimistic about these programs and others
in the works. "Right now, we are trying to make the technologies faster and
smaller, as far as what it takes to run it," says Mr. Littlefield. "The research
always produces results, but some are most or less useful then we hope for."
< http://www.pnl.gov/infoviz/timesarticle.html >
To subscribe see < http://www.usip.org/oc/virtual_dipl.html#group >
Rod Welch wrote:
> A useful distinction between pictures and language can be grasped from Eric's
> earlier comment that a picture takes a thousand words to explain.
> Pictures are useful and often critical to daily affairs. The human mind
> interprets pictures by making associations with other pictures and drawing
> inferences of correlations, implications and nuance that apply, adjust and
> expand paradigms, rules, belief, past experience and huge a body of knowledge
> far beyond the confines of a particular picture. Language is a more powerful,
> flexible window into the mind's interpretation than can be achieved by drawing a
> lot of pictures. For example, it is very difficult to draw a picture of a
> concept, or to draw a picture that conveys the meaning of this paragraph, yet
> people readily draw useful meaning from the text. This gives rise to a notion
> of an "alphabetic mind," reviewed on 991108.....
> Since speech is a powerful way to communicate at a much lower, i.e., refined,
> level of detail than is possible from reliance on pictures, an issue arises
> about how to manage what people say and do, since speech and action soon fade
> from memory. Henry van Eykan points out that people rely on remembering only the
> gist of things, about 5% of the actual record. We see some of this in our own
> work on the OHS/DKR, where people say things like, "...I remember so and so said
> a while back something about...., so I really feel thus and so..." The OHS/DKR
> project has not yet begun in earnest, so it is not critical that people do more
> than rely on remembering the gist of things. Since relying on the gist of
> things is fast and easy, like email, there is no evident incentive to improve.
> However, we have seen in recent days that the intelligence community has a lot
> of data and information, but cannot remember more than the gist of things. As
> with the OHS/DKR, so long as no one got hurt, nobody cared. New evidence now
> shows that people care about accurate memory when "the chips are on the line,"
> i.e., accurate understanding of the actual record showing patterns of cause and
> effect impacts important values for guiding timely action. This suggests there
> is demand for "intelligence," which Eric proposed could be augmented, in a
> letter to the team on 000423.
> How then might this be accomplished?
> A textual explanation of what people say and do and hear and see, including any
> pictures, provides organizational memory. Adding analysis to organizational
> memory creates history of cause and effect organized by context, that enables
> people to be prepared to take effective action. Pictures are not conducive to
> this role, but still have a powerful role to preserve impressions and certain
> relationships, as in the design of a building or computer chip, etc.
> In sum, pictures and text alone are not enough. We need to follow Eric's lead
> and develop useful intelligence. Jack, Eric, Eugene, Lee and others seem to be
> working along these lines. The rest of us need to be developing the culture
> and work practices for deployment, as Eugene suggested on 001126. Doug has
> been writing about this for years, so there is no time like the present to get
> started producing useful intelligence.
> "John J. Deneen" wrote:
> > STRONG DISAGREEMENT - "A picture is worth a thousand words."
> > Here's what some world-class scientists say about their need for visualization
> > technology:
> > "We have all experienced the contrast between hearing (or reading) a
> > description of a person's face, as opposed to seeing a
> > picture of the same face. The picture instantly conveys information to our
> > minds which allows us to recognize a familiar
> > individual. The narrative description may never convey enough information to
> > arrive at the same conclusion. This ability of the
> > human mind to rapidly perceive certain types of information, makes information
> > visualization a useful and often necessary tool.
> > Information Visualization is a highly efficient way for the mind to directly
> > perceive data and discover knowledge and insight
> > from it.
> > Information Visualization is the direct visualization of a representation of
> > selected features or elements of complex
> > multi-dimensional data. Data that can be used to create a visualization
> > includes text, image data, sound, voice, video - and of
> > course, all kinds of numerical data. Our visual analysis systems also provide
> > the tools to interact with the data that has been
> > visualized so that users can explore, discover and learn. Users do not look at
> > static images, but can subset the data, run
> > queries, do time sequence studies and create categories and correlations of
> > data type."
> > < http://www.pnl.gov/infoviz/about.html >
> > Examples of important visualization tools:
> > < http://www.pnl.gov/infoviz/technologies.html >
> > Eric Armstrong wrote:
> > > Alex Shapiro wrote:
> > >
> > > > Have you
> > > >
> > > >> > checked
> > > >> > out this paper by the
> > > >> > way? http://www.cs.vu.nl/~frankh/postscript/VSW01.pdf What to you
> > > >> think?
> > > >
> > > The examples in this paper appear to me to reinforce the principles I
> > > posited
> > > in a post quite a while back. Graphics work when there is
> > > * a small set of
> > > * fixed data types
> > > * small sets of relationships
> > >
> > > That allows one icon to be associated with each type. The graph can then
> > > show
> > > patterns or locations of the items. Graphs run into problems in one of
> > > three ways:
> > > 1) When the number of types grows large, there are too many icons to
> > > keep track
> > > of, and no meaningful patterns emerge.
> > > 2) When the number of relationships grows large, the intersecting
> > > lines in any
> > > graphic representation turns the picture into a confusion.
> > > 3) When the number of entries grows large, items are far removed from
> > > each
> > > other, and the other end of any given relationship is rarely
> > > visible in a given
> > > display area.
> > >
> > > I note that the examples used in this paper have exactly two data types:
> > > a location
> > > at the top level of the hierarchy, and something else (presumably a
> > > "job" type) at
> > > the second level of the hierarchy. I note that no information about the
> > > job is
> > > contained in the graph. So the "information content" only goes one
> > > level deep.
> > >
> > > At the top level, the only information is the name of the location.
> > > Presumably, there
> > > is a link to other information that would help to explain why a given
> > > location is good
> > > or bad for jobs, but the graph itself contains little or no pertinent
> > > information on the
> > > subject.
> > >
> > > At the second level of the hierarchy, the *only* information is the
> > > number of jobs.
> > > (Assuming that I am correctly interpreting the intent of the diagrams.)
> > > The
> > > individual bubbles would be useless for keeping track of jobs. They are
> > > already
> > > getting small and hard and select. And it would take different types of
> > > icons to
> > > present any useful information.
> > >
> > > Given these limitations, I don't see how graphing techologies apply at
> > > all to
> > > collaborative design/discussion tools or a knowledge base, given the
> > > huge
> > > volume of information such a tool needs to manage, the vast array of
> > > information types, and the exponentially exploding number of
> > > interconnects.
> > >
> > > Perhaps TheBrain has something that could provoke a change of mind. I
> > > can't say I've seen it (or recall what I saw, if I did). But as a simple
> > > example,
> > > how would any of the information contained in this message be captured
> > > in
> > > a graph? Were it done, in what way would such a graph be of use to
> > > anyone?
> > >
> > > I simply do not see graphing technology as useful in any substantive way
> > >
> > > in a knowledge-engineering context. It's GREAT for visualizing small
> > > systems, which makes it a wonderful tool for teaching. It gives people a
> > >
> > > mental model of the systems. But in actual use? I'm still inclined to
> > > pass,
> > > I'm afraid.
> > >
> > >
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