Smartphone and the PC

Michael Mace writes:

For a smartphones to replace PCs, they would have to take on all the features of a PC — they’d need to input and edit text as easily as a PC, create spreadsheets as easily as a PC, edit pictures and presentations as easily as a PC, and manage large databases as easily as a PC. To do that in a small mobile device, you need a color folding screen (so you can work with large documents), either a full-size keyboard or perfect voice recognition, a pointing device a heck of a lot more sophisticated than a five-way rocker, enormous amounts of storage, and a fast processor.

Oh, and you need an operating system that doesn’t break its installed base of apps every time it moves to a new version.

Offshoring and Healthcare

John Hagel writes:

It turns out more and more patients in need of expensive operations are traveling to distant locations to have these procedures performed. Certainly one of the key drivers of this trend is the escalating cost of medical care in developed economies. There’s a potential for significant cost savings when the procedures are performed in countries like India or Singapore. The New York Times article tells the story of Gary Hulmes, a furniture store manager from Florida who went to New Delhi to have spinal surgery done and paid a total of $9,000 including airfare, a five-day hospital stay, and a total stay of three weeks in India (with some sightseeing thrown in). If performed in a US hospital, the same procedure would have cost $36,000 50,000.

But like the broader offshoring trend, cost is only part of the story. The interesting part (only briefly addressed in the article) has to do with the emergence of highly specialized hospitals in offshore locations that offer state of the art equipment and highly trained physicians that can equal or better the quality record of US physicians. The surgeries being performed include very challenging cardiac, spinal and ophthalmologic procedures.

Web 2.0 as Post-Modern Internet

Web 2.0 Journal writes:

Web 2.0, Search 2.0, Life 2.0, World 2.0. The metaphor of software versions to describe technological and social phenomena once upon a time was clever. But as with all clever sayings, it became overused and is now clich. The draw toward terms like Web 2.0 is of course that it makes a strong implication that what it represents is a next generation of something good enough to have gotten a second run. The trouble with such monikers, though, is their post-modern tendency to merely be what came after.

Enlightenment thinking was clear and organized. There were disagreements amongst the thinkers of the Era, but the Era itself was definable. Post-modernism cannot be defined except by saying what it is not. It is not modern; it is what came after the Enlightenment. Web 2.0 suffers from the same malaise. People across the globe are publishing countless articles and books to try to define Web 2.0, but like its underpinning philosophy, it is not easily defined. In fact, to put it into a box would be to contradict its very nature.

Baidu’s 4th-Generation Search Engine

China Tech Stories writes:

The hugely successful 3rd generation search engine Baidu, is actively building 4th generation search technology, revealed by it’s CEO Robin Li yesterday. Baidu is actively exploring social search to meet the internet’s need for next generation search technology, that is social search.

Li indicated that, in the next few years, the trend of socialized search will be more and more predominant. Internet search has gone three stages, the first one based on appearing frequencies of keywords; the second one using “super link analysis” technology and the third stage is dominated by sponsored search ranking and it is where Baidu is positioned currently.

Radio, Internet and Mobiles

All About Symbian has a feature by krisse:

Will normal radio give way to internet radio?

Most of it probably will, eventually. Internet radio already offers vastly more choice and flexibility, its sound quality improves all the time while normal radio’s stands still, and the price of internet access (both at home and on the move) is constantly falling. Thanks to the combination of fast internet connections and processing power on smartphones it has become portable. In a decade or two’s time there will be very few (if any) reasons to choose normal radio instead of the internet variety, and stop-gap services like DAB and Visual Radio probably won’t be needed, at least in their current form.

If internet radio does become established, and it uses the a Visual Radio-style track selling system, it could turn radio from a passive activity into a trip through new music, a mixture of exploration and shopping. DJs and their choice of music would become more important than ever.

TECH TALK: Good Books: No Two Alike

Sitting down to read a good book is a delight that has no parallel. As one starts reading, one gets immersed in the world that has been crafted by the author. Be it fiction or non-fiction, as a reader, I like to forget about the environs and let the author take over the mind. Books have an immersiveness that watching TV or reading an article on the Internet or in a newspaper can never have. It is like traveling on a long flight. One can easily lose sense of time with no distractions to split attention. So, for the next few weeks, I will pick a few more good books. As the year draws to a close and some of us take vacations, maybe one or more of these books can make a good companion.

No Two Alike was a book recommended by Chetan Parikh at one of our recent Book Club meetings. Written by Judith Rich Harris, it delves into, as the byline suggests, human nature and human individuality. It is about our personality what makes us different. Harris had earlier written The Nurture Assumption, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. As Chetan pointed out in his review during our meeting, it is written in a somewhat of a detective style as a mystery book. Harris considers herself an academic investigator. She suffers from systemic schlerosis and lupus, two autoimmune diseases. Yet, she has conquered her physical limitations to put together a magical journey through the theories beyond personality and behaviour.

Here is how Publishers Weekly [via Amazon.com] summarises the book:

Why do identical twins who grow up together differ in personality? Harris attempts to solve that mystery. Her initial thesis in The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do is replaced here with a stronger, more detailed one based on evolutionary psychology. Reading this book is akin to working your way through a mystery novelcomplete with periodic references to Sherlock Holmes. And Harris has a knack for interspersing scientific and research-laden text with personal anecdotes. Initially, she refutes five red herring theories of personality differences, including differences in environment and gene-environment interactions. Eventually, Harris presents her own theory, starting from modular notions of the brain (as Steven Pinker puts it, “the mind is not a single organ but a system of organs”). Harris offers a three-systems theory of personality: there’s the relationship system, the socialization system and the status system. And while she admits her theory of personality isn’t simple, it is thought provoking. Harris ties up the loose ends of the new theory, showing how the development of the three systems creates personality.

This is what Scientific American wrote [via Amzon.com]:

Where does adult personality come from? Why are we all different? These are the questions energizing Judith Rich Harriss new book.

Harris then develops a complex scheme based on “the modular mind,” a framework set forth by Harvard University evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker and others. (Harris herself has no doctorate and is housebound by systemic sclerosis and lupus, two autoimmune disorders.) She describes three modulesthe relationship system, the socialization system and the status systemand explains how each contributes its part to making us who we are. The relationship system starts in the cradle as infants study and learn the faces and voices of the people around them, collecting information that helps form personality. The socialization system adapts people to their culture. The status system takes all the information collected during childhood and adolescence and shapes and modifies our personalities in accord with our environments.

Harriss last chapter lays out her theory in tabular form, explaining how each module interacts with the others to produce our distinct personalities. It is lavishly footnoted, like the rest of the book, shoring up her strategy of pointing out the failings of other models and then proposing her own. Her goal, she writes, is to explain the variations in personality that cannot be attributed to variations in peoples genes.

Tomorrow: No Two Alike (continued)