To This Issue.
Give your eyes a rest; even listen at your own
Quote of the Week.
They're Not Just For Play.
MMORPGs -- From the bedroom to the boardroom?
Musical Technological Escalatio.
On taking your "customers" to court...
From Out of the Ether...
The lighter, and the darker sides of "connected
No Counterfeiting HERE!
PROVE it's real -- for the moment...
About "The Harrow Technology Report"
LISTEN To This
Do you prefer to let your ears do the work of
keeping you in-touch with, and thinking about
where technology is taking us? If so,
"The Harrow Technology Report" is also
available in an audio-on-demand, Web-based, MP3
If you have an MP3 player on your system (and
most do, such as Window's Media Player,
RealPlayer, etc.), clicking on the link below will
either stream the file to you, or, depending on
how your system is configured, it might download
the file before playing it. Alternatively,
if you specifically want to download the file,
simply right-click on the link, and choose "Save
Also, to learn how you can listen at whatever
speed is most comfortable to you, check out the
So, if you wish, just click on the following
link to listen to this issue!
Back to Table of Contents
5 1/4-inch hard-disk drive was introduced by
Seagate Technology in 1980, the industry has
increased storage capacity 8,000-fold and improved
price per bit of storage by a factor of 40,000."
"Advances Nip at Its Heels, but Disk Maker Moves
June 30, New York Times
Back to Table of Contents
We've been exploring some of the good
20020527.htm#_Toc10011765), and some of
the not so good (http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20020610/
20020610.htm#_Toc11220481), of MMORPGs
(Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games)
such as EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot, so that
we can gain an understanding of the draw, and of
the power of these immersive virtual worlds.
During the course of our explorations, I've been
suggesting that although the current crop of these
virtual worlds are clearly "games," I expect these
powerful global real-time simulations to evolve
into commonly used "business" tools.
(Remember "desktop computers," color monitors, and
sound cards -- all of which have previously
migrated from gamers to cubicles?)
For example, the military is allegedly using
such "games," appropriately configured to
represent an enemy position, to give troops a
visceral preview of what it will be like to enter
that target area. And then there's the
recent release of the free and very popular "America'sArmy"
game (750,000 hits per SECOND at launch, with over
a half-million people authenticated during the
first 36 hours -
simulates your first tour of duty in an Army unit,
which the Army hopes will entice gamers to "join
up." And these, I believe, are just the very
beginning of our using virtual worlds to affect
the real one.
The "3 Rs," Plus "2 Ms, an O, and an
It also seems, according to the June 8 New York
that some schools are now using MMORPG
technology to let students actually (virtually)
EXPERIENCE problem-solving situations, rather than
simply TALKING ABOUT them, as part of a study by
George Mason and Harvard Universities.
For example, one class routinely visits "River
City," a virtual 1890 town that has an epidemic on
its hands. In the same fashion as in popular
MMORPG games, students interact with the town's
virtual inhabitants, as well as with other
students who are visiting the town at the same
time, to uncover the source of the infection and
save the town. Another of these
Multiple-User Virtual Environment Experimental
Simulators, or "Muvees," teaches physics by
placing students in a bicycle road race.
Another lets art and design students create new
buildings on the site of the WTC.
One of the hallmarks of using Muvees rather
than traditional computer simulations, is that
they encourage "higher-order reasoning" while they
focus on the students (who could be at multiple
schools or even in other countries) having to
interact with one another to succeed. And
unsurprisingly, in most cases the students find
this type of learning compelling.
Most schools today would seem all too familiar
to the students of a thousand years ago, and it's
increasingly difficult to interest kids, who were
weaned on TV and video games, with lectures.
Perhaps these evolving virtual environments will
expand our classrooms in new and more effective
Yet as we discussed in a recent issue, many
people are concerned about the addictive nature of
MMORPGs, with one reader mulling over concerns
that the amount of time that players spend
immersed in these virtual worlds, detracts from
their interactions in the real world (http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20020610/
can certainly be the case with some people, but
several of your comments demonstrate that the
picture isn't nearly as cut-and-dried as some
"I believe the
critics of MMORPGs miss an important point. They
may see MMORPGs as just another computer game
where you spend hours alone, cut off from
humanity. But in reality you're interacting
with potentially thousands (and soon to become
millions) of people you'd never otherwise have a
chance to meet. Sure, the avatars that represent
these people aren't terribly realistic -- yet, but
even now they're close enough to allow recognition
and association with the real players behind them,
encouraging the development of friendships.
MMORPGs are microcosms of society, in essence
laboratories for studying human interaction,
teaching societal rules and consequences of
This has always been the case, actually--even
those who play board games are usually more
interested in the social intercourse with other
players than they are in the game. MMORPGs have
just taken the experience to the next level. And
in the not-too-distant future, when avatars become
almost indistinguishable from real people, we're
sure to see MMORPG technology spill into, and even
replace, videoconferencing, phone calls, and even
in-the-flesh visits. People today often can't be
bothered or can't afford to waste time traveling
to meet a friend. With advanced MMORPG technology,
meeting friends could become easier than making a
phone call, further facilitating human
MMORPGs don't subtract from the human experience;
they add to it."
"I'd like to put
in my two cents regarding the addictive and
damaging nature of MMORPGs and other online
activities that involve many people at one time,
such as chat rooms, etc.
You constantly hear comments by people who are not
advocates or users of multi-user environments,
that the people who participate in these
activities should instead "interact with the real
world". These people are constantly labeled as
being "anti-social geeks," a stereotype that
couldn't be further from the truth. The fact
is, people who interact online often use these
online environments as a method of meeting and
socializing with people that they otherwise would
not have met.
The people that propagate the "anti-social geek"
stereotype seem to base their arguments on the
myth that, if these people weren't socializing on
their computer for 3-4 hours a day, they would
have been "out in the real world" interacting with
"real people". This is an obvious fable that is
repeated endlessly and needs to be quashed. The
reality is that the "anti-social geeks" previously
spent the same 3-4 hours sitting on their couch
watching TV completely tuned out from ANY social
contact what-so-ever! Studies have
consistently shown that people most often
substitute "computer time" for "TV time," NOT for
"real life time" as these anti-online advocates
seem to believe.
The so-called "anti-social geek" probably met
(online) several new people that day, had social
contact with several (online) friends, and are
VERY likely to arrange a personal "Real Life"
meeting with some of those same people sometime in
the near future. How many new people did the couch
potato meet that day? How many new friends has
anyone ever made watching TV?
I will agree that "real-life" encounters with
people are much better from a social standpoint
than "on-line" ones, but if I have to choose
between "on-line" socializing and sitting in front
of a TV, I'll take on-line any day."
Matthias Wiemeyer (in part):
"Are computer games addictive ? Probably. Will
every kid that spends a long time playing them get
him or herself into trouble ? No.
Kids get (if anything) addicted to the emotional
quality of the role experience they make while
playing computer games. It is not the piece of
technology they bond with, it is what it does to
their imagination and emotion."
It's Just One More Technology.
There's no "right answer," of course, and as
with every technological advance, some people will
benefit while others will abuse it, perhaps
becoming "addicts." Just look at the number
of hours that teenagers used to (before Email and
IMing, that is), spend on the telephone.
I believe that as MMORPG technology gets more
realistic (which will certainly happen), another
shift -- this one following the previous shift
from telephones to text chat -- may very well take
place. And virtual environments will then
follow the established path of previous gaming
technologies: from the kids' bedrooms, into their
parents' (and their own) offices.
Both for good, and for ill...
Back to Table of Contents
Feedback is Important!
like to understand your interest in The Harrow
Technology Report, how you make use of it, and
the value you feel it provides to you, your
career, and to your company.
Please send your comments to me at
look forward to hearing from you!
And, if you know of other folks who might find
value in "The Harrow Technology Report,"
I'd appreciate your letting them know that they
can subscribe at
Back to Table of Contents
This reminds me a bit of the Mad magazine "Spy
vs. Spy" series that I used to enjoy so many years
ago: On the one hand, we have peer-to-peer
(P2P) networks, epitomized by Napster and followed
by Morpheus et al, changing the music industry by
offering the specific music tracks that listeners
want, when they want them, at a price they like
(free). On the other hand, these users are
not PAYING for the music, which understandably has
the music industry more than a little peeved.
The music industry could, of course, pay attention
to their customers and offer their products in
ways that their customers clearly want (on-demand
online access of individual songs, at reasonable
prices, without new and unreasonable copying
restrictions). But the music industry's
initial attempts at selling songs online have been
so late, restrictive, and limited, that their
customers continue to demur to the renegade free
But the "game" continues, as the music industry
begins sharpening its Napster-killing legal sword
to strike back at a new target -- its customers!
Technically Targeting P2P Networks.
According to the June 27 Mercury News
the music industry has
aggressive new guerrilla assault on the
underground music networks, flooding online
swapping services with bogus copies of popular
In effect, the music labels are populating
online P2P music sites with files that, by their
titles, SEEM to be popular songs, but only contain
a bit of the song, or silence, or garbage.
They hope that people who take the time to
download these bogus files will get frustrated
with the online experience and run out to purchase
the CDs. According to one music label
"We're not using
any of this with any kind of promotion or
marketing in mind. We're doing this simply because
we believe people are stealing our stuff and we
want to stymie the stealing.''
This technique is called "spoofing," and while
apparently not illegal, it (so far) doesn't seem
to be turning away the 18.7 million P2P music
customers. Which leaves the music labels
looking at more "active measures," such as ways to
scramble search queries sent over the P2P
networks, or to actually place dangerous viruses
into these files(!) -- activities that would seem
to cross over into (at least) a legal gray area,
if not a very black one. To address this,
Beverly Hills democratic Congressman Howard Berman
bill that would [make it legal for] copyright
owners, such as record labels or movie studios,
[to] launch high-tech attacks against
"While P2P (peer-to-peer) technology is
free to innovate new and more efficient methods of
distribution that further exacerbate the piracy
problem, copyright owners are not equally free to
craft technological responses. This is not
Additional insights are at
the July 9 BusinessWeek Online.
So this game of technological Spy vs. Spy is
set to escalate. But making such aggressive
activities legal could open a can of worms that
goes far beyond the music issue.
Legally Targeting -- YOU!
On another front, the music industry seems
poised to sic its lawyers directly onto the
busiest file-sharing individuals; those who serve
up a large number of songs on P2P networks, or
those who host the "supernodes" that supply some
P2P networks' distributed directory structures.
According to an unnamed music industry executive
quoted in the July 3 News.com
"The subject is
on the table. The idea would be to
discourage people. Clearly there have been no
Fighting Your Own Best Customers?
Personally, I'm not much of a music listener,
so these measures won't affect me. But it
continues to astound me that an industry is
willing to openly wage war on its customers,
rather than trying to meet those customers' needs.
The music industry is blaming P2P music
networks for a 16% drop in CD sales, and the P2P
networks might well be a contributory factor.
But this leaves the music industry with two major
choices. Go to war with its customers (and
given the innovations that are part and parcel of
the Internet, it will likely be a very long and
bloody war with no certain outcome), or come up
with a way that allows customers to conveniently
(and reasonably) pay for the songs they want, when
they want them, in a format that allows them to
use those songs in the same "fair use" ways that
they've been able to use music from purchased
records, and cassette tapes, and CDs, in the past.
Light At The End Of The Music Tunnel?
Perhaps, though, the music industry is getting
the idea. Larry Kenswil, president of
Universal's eLabs division, looks at it this way:
"We could be 100
percent correct morally and legally that it is
wrong to trade copyrighted files, but from a
business standpoint it doesn't matter. We
need to construct legal alternatives."
Which is what they now seem to be doing,
perhaps spurred on by the current Justice
Department probe into the music industry's alleged
According to the July 1 New York Times
Universal Music Group now plans to license its
catalog to Listen.com, where people can pay
$10/month to play some (but not all) songs from
the "big five" labels
And there are indications that Warner will be
expanding the number of artists' works that they
will make available for online sale at $1.00 per
song through MusicNet. (There is
speculation, though, that listeners aren't willing
to pay much more than 25-cents per song.)
Unfortunately, the music industry's disparate
online services still don't offer the P2P
networks' "one stop shopping" for songs from all
labels, which makes them less attractive...
Perhaps the music industry is now pragmatically
reading the handwriting on the digital,
peer-to-peer wall. Which would be a really
good thing for them, since they still, for a
while, have a choice, least the 31-million (U.S.
only) file-sharing listeners decide that they're
just not interested in listening to such "hostile
tunes," at all.
Back to Table of Contents
Too Much Pride -- Commenting on our
recent foray into human add-ons, such as the tooth
implant that receives digital audio from a
transmitter in a pocket, and then sends the audio
directly to your ear (via the jawbone -
20020701.htm#_Toc13055044), reader Don
Lyle thought fast enough to send me the following:
"I presume the
transmitter in your shirt pocket is communicating
with your molar using...
No, I have too
much pride to say it.
Ouch. And I'm not going to complete that,
er, colorful thought, either...
On a similar note regarding the idea of a tooth
implant, reader Arnold Jagt is concerned about the
darker side of networked human implants:
"Dateline Jan 30,
2005: Help! A hacker got into my tooth and
has been playing propaganda into my head day and
night. I am about to go nuts!"
Similarly, reader Duncan Holley raises some
viable Big Brother concerns:
"The article on
teeth implants also opens up the possibility of a
more sinister use - that of mind control by a
non-benevolent government! For example a device
implanted at a young age could be used to inject
and reinforce any desired thoughts into a
subject's mind and shape their behaviors as they
Important things to consider, especially if you
think that today's PC virus infestation is a
problem. Just imagine those issues, as we
move towards "connected cars" and "connected
Back to Table of Contents
Finally, as a follow-up to our discussion of
how billionths of a meter long bar-coded molecules
might be embedded in products to prove their
20020318.htm#_Toc3966878), reader Mike
Ryan bring our attention to an Australian artist
named Pro Hart, who is reaching the same goal, but
It seems that Hart is placing a bit of himself
-- the processed DNA from a swabbing of his cheek
-- embedded within his paintings!
The exact location of his "mark," which can
later be authenticated without damaging the
painting, is secret; the details are preserved in
a database that will make it easy to determine if
a Hart painting is authentic or a forgery.
This may only be the beginning of our following
in the paw-prints of our puppies as we
increasingly "mark" our territory, or objects,
with our own spoor. For example, Sydney's
House of Phillips Fine Art is offering to
retroactively mark previous Hart paintings for
$140 each, which implies that this technique may
eventually get inexpensive enough to allow us to
tag almost anything.
Of course the day may come when we can generate
artificial DNA on the fly, but until that time,
this is a novel example of how the Convergence of
technologies continues to make new things
possible. (Speaking of "converging
technologies," check out the paper at
, brought to our attention by reader
Kenneth LaCrosse, for additional insights into
NBIC (Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information
Technology, and Cogitative Science), which
promises to change ALL of the rules.)
Back on the subject of using DNA as an
authenticity marker, I just read that they're
redesigning U.S. paper currency -- again.
Hummmm. I wonder...
About "The Harrow