The Harrow Technology Report

  http://www.TheHarrowGroup.com

Insight, analysis, and commentary on the 
innovations and trends of contemporary computing, 
and on its growing number of related technologies.

An ongoing journey towards understanding, 
and profiting from, a world of exponential 
technological growth!

Copyright 2001-2005, Jeffrey R. Harrow.  All rights reserved.
Email: Jeff@TheHarrowGroup.com

 

Far More Than Just A Game...
July 15 2002

  • LISTEN To This Issue.
                Give your eyes a rest; even listen at your own rate.

  • Quote of the Week.
                Storage magic!

  • 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 bodies."

  • No Counterfeiting HERE!
                PROVE it's real -- for the moment...

  • About "The Harrow Technology Report"


  • LISTEN To This Issue.

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    Back to Table of Contents


    Quote of the Week.

      

    "Since the 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 Forward"
    June 30, New York Times
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/01/technology/
    01KOMA.html?todaysheadlines

      

    Back to Table of Contents


    They're Not Just For Play.

     

    We've been exploring some of the good (http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20020527/
    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 - http://www.americasarmy.com/), which 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 RPG."

    It also seems, according to the June 8 New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/06/technology/circuits/06NEXT.html), 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 directions.

     

    Another View.

    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/
    20020610.htm#_Toc11220481
    ).  This 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 might think:

    Derek Mathias:

    "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 behavior.

    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 interaction.

    MMORPGs don't subtract from the human experience; they add to it."

    John Lange:

    "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...



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    Back to Table of Contents


    Musical Technological Escalatio.

     

    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 services.

    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 (http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/3560365.htm), the music industry has

    "...launched an aggressive new guerrilla assault on the underground music networks, flooding online swapping services with bogus copies of popular songs."

    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 executive,

    "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 is,

    "...preparing a bill that would [make it legal for] copyright owners, such as record labels or movie studios, [to] launch high-tech attacks against file-swapping networks." (http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-939433.html)

    "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 fair."

    Additional insights are at http://www.businessweek.com/technology/
    content/jul2002/tc2002079_7636.htm
     in 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 (http://news.com.com/2100-1023-941547.html?tag=dd.ne.dht.nl-sty.0),

    "The subject is on the table.  The idea would be to discourage people. Clearly there have been no consequences yet." 

     

    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 anti-competitive behavior. 

    According to the July 1 New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/01/technology/01
    TUNE.html?ex=1026530709&ei=1&en=f36a2b6f2b1c164e
    )
    , 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 (http://news.com.com/2100-1023-940841.html?tag=dd.ne.dht.nl-sty.0).  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


    From Out of the Ether...

     

    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 - http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20020701/
    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.

    -Don"

    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 grow up."

    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 bodies..."


    Back to Table of Contents


    No Counterfeiting HERE!

     

    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 authenticity (http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20020318/
    20020318.htm#_Toc3966878)
    , reader Mike Ryan bring our attention to an Australian artist named Pro Hart, who is reaching the same goal, but au naturel. 

    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 http://wtec.org/ConvergingTechnologies/Report/NBIC_overview.pdf , 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. (http://online.wsj.com/article_print/
    0,4287,SB1016502732176980440,00.html)
       Hummmm.  I wonder...

     


    About "The Harrow Technology Report"

     

    "The Harrow Technology Report" explores the innovations and trends of many contemporary and emerging technologies, and then draws some less than obvious connections between them, to help us each survive and prosper in the Knowledge Age. 

    "The Harrow Technology Report" is brought to you by Jeffrey R. Harrow, Principal of The Harrow Group. http://www.TheHarrowGroup.com .

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    Copyright (c) 2001-2005, Jeffrey R. Harrow. All rights reserved.

    Jeffrey R. Harrow maintains that all reasonable care and skill has been used in the compilation of this publication.  However, he shall not be under any liability for loss or damage (including consequential loss) whatsoever or howsoever arising as a result of the use of this publication by the reader, his/her/its servants, agents or any third party.

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