Feedback Universe

From Forbes ASAP comes an article by Michael Malone on the next big thing – Feedback:

When we speak of feedback, we don’t mean strictly the squeal from a microphone placed too close to a speaker, or customer comments to a corporate service center. Rather, the term is shorthand for “feedback loop,” which is a closed system by which the consequences of an event send back data that in turn modify that event in the future. For example, hunger followed by eating to assuage that hunger, is a simple feedback loop we all experience.

Only a few people have experienced the power of fast feedback loops. Most are either early riders of the Segway scooter or Formula One race car drivers. But they are the vanguard of millions.

Already, an estimated 100 companies, from Microsoft and IBM to tiny startups, are pursuing a vision of high-speed information feedback systems among the departments of corporations, their employees, suppliers, distributors, and end users. This vision, called real-time enterprise computing, offers the potential for companies to instantly identify changes in orders and then quickly respond.

But the corporation isn’t the only sector of modern life about to be transformed by the use of feedback loops. Automobiles already have demonstrated feedback technology’s effects in engine computers and automatic transmission settings; now computer-controlled feedback is moving into the drive train, suspension, passenger compartment environment and collision avoidance.

Any regular user of knows about fast feedback loops. They can be found in those ever-changing lists of “Other Items You Might Enjoy.” Every Amazon purchase you make teaches that algorithm a little more about you. Other companies, such as credit card firms, supermarkets, and department stores are following suit, tracking your every purchase to build a profile of your buying habits.

Mix that information in a vast shared database with mountains of data coming in about you from millions of sensors scattered across the landscape in roads, cash registers, and video cameras, and it soon will be possible to construct a virtual image of you–your tastes, interests, patterns, and perhaps even dreams–that will be almost indistinguishable from the real thing. This will be the face of retail–and probably law, education, health care, and entertainment–in the 21st century.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.