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X 2.0之外:我们该向何处?

已有 6408 次阅读 2009-5-20 11:17 |个人分类:往事如云|系统分类:生活其它|关键词:A,Letter,from,the,Editor| Letter, from, Editor

A Letter from the Editor

 

Beyond X 2.0: Where Should We Go?

Fei-Yue Wang

 

 

I believe data mining methods are critical to both the era of Web 2.0 and beyond it; where everyone is either acting as a data-mining-driven agent or conducting agent-driven data mining. Our special issue on Agents and Data Mining covers key research topics, applications, and resources of agent mining research and development. This emerging field could make Web 2.0 even more effective and useful.

 

The special issue reminds me of an essay I read some time ago in Computer World (the Chinese version) which stated that Web 2.0 is a great lie in the course of web history. The author claimed that: 1) Web 2.0 is an empty concept; 2) Web 2.0 is misleading; 3) Web 2.0 is unscientific; and 4) Web 2.0 takes credit for many past and emerging web innovations without justification. I was surprised by this essay, not by the author’s accusations, but by his seriousness about the academic merit and logic of Web 2.0.

While I was writing this letter on my flight across the Pacific, I happened upon an article in The Economist titled “Six years in the Valley”, which explained the conceptualization and motivation behind Web 2.0. Towards the end of 2003, two conference organizers Dale Dougherty and Tim O’Reilly coined the term in an effort to rally Silicon Valley from its “nuclear winter” after the dotcom burst. The first Web 2.0 Conference took place October 2004 in San Francisco and created a stir. Since then Web 2.0 has become a wildly popular phrase, so much so that “Mr. O’Reilly [has] started fretting that it [has] become a cliché, and was being applied to so many things that it was in danger of becoming meaningless.” Even worse some have started to fear that “behind the Web 2.0 totem of ‘collective intelligence’ [there exists] an insidious ‘digital Maoism’ that suppressed individuality”. Others have observed “an unhealthy trend towards ‘continuous partial attention’, as people spent less time focusing on a single thing or person because they were constantly scanning so many other things—from Facebook to e-mail and their phones—for fear of missing out on some social opportunity.” The most dangerous aspect is that Web 2.0 derives its principal economic support from advertising, but with today’s world financial crisis, advertisement is collapsing. Thus, Web 2.0 could send the Valley to yet “another nuclear winter.”

   

So where do we go from here?

From Web 2.0 to X 2.0

Fortunately, the main value of Web 2.0 is not its economic worth, but its social and cultural contributions, not in just Silicon Valley, but in Cyberspace.

 

In terms of technology or science, there is nothing new or innovative in Web 2.0. It is neither reasonable nor fair to ask two conference organizers to provide a technical breakthrough in web technology. However, Web 2.0 is indeed a breakthrough in inspiring a new attitude towards interacting and sharing through the internet, cultivating a new lifestyle in cyberspace. We have witnessed the impact of Web 2.0 by watching X 2.0 mushrooming everywhere: Politics 2.0, Government 2.0, Education 2.0, Science 2.0, Business 2.0, Publishing 2.0, Entertainment 2.0, Emergency 2.0, you name it! Mr. Barack Obama was dubbed the President 2.0, elected in the first real Campaign 2.0. Last year, I myself wrote an article about Management 2.0 and gave a presentation on Control 2.0 to graduate students at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

With X 2.0 all over the place, our life is now even more closely intertwined with the Web, changing our lifestyle forever. As a business model, Web 2.0 may continue to sell negligible advertising, but its grander vision emerges from a rapid and interactive social dynamic process governed by Merton’s self-fulfilling prophecy. With the semantic web dubbed Web 3.0, and perhaps social computing as Web 4.0, the future of the Web is getting to be more and more fascinating. Soon, Cyberspace, the so-called virtual space, will be as real to us as our familiar physical space. Like the mathematical concept of “complex numbers”, which includes both real and imagery numbers, with each taking 50% of the total, our future living environments should be called “complex spaces”, half physical and half virtual. If you think this is simply a far-reached fantasy, then think back to 400 years ago, when imagery numbers were thought not to exist. Today, they are half of all numbers. As the concept of numbers has changed, the concept of spaces will evolve as well. I am sure this time that it will take us less than 400 years to realize that cyberspace is as real as anything and will be half of our future world, no more, no less, just half.

 

Although the progression from Web 2.0 to X 2.0 and beyond is driven by technology, it is essentially a social and cultural phenomenon. Web 2.0 is not a great lie in the Web’s history; rather its social dimension simply makes a purely academic judgment invalid.

Why X 2.0 Matters: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 

X 2.0 is the first step towards a new world in an open and primitive “complex space” that intertwines real and virtual. However, this is not the reason why it matters: X 2.0 matters because of the unprecedented level of scale and speed of its social impact and consequence.

 

A vivid example is the “Human Flesh Search Engine”, a new phenomenon that has swept China in recent years: unexpected digital witch hunts of common people with “uncommon” behaviors. Ordinary Chinese netizens can become cyber-vigilantes and online communities can turn into the world’s largest lynch mobs, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad and sometimes just plain ugly. Wielding the vast human power behind the web, the every detail of targeted victims, from their private information to their social networks, were combed through, dug up and published on hundreds of forums and chat rooms. With close to 300 million Chinese citizens wired up to the Internet, a large number of netizens can be easily mobilized to participate in such a search; the vb results are fearful and uniquely Chinese! Thus far, a few local government officials were arrested for corruptions uncovered by the human flesh search, initiated by their exorbitant use of luxury items. Their “crimes”, such as smoking expensive cigarettes or wearing expensive watches, were spotted in public meetings by netizens. However, the few who dare to be outspoken or behave eccentrically have to face, unjustified, the wrath of an online mob; a few, including a college girl and an actress, were murdered or committed suicide as a direct result of tremendous anger or peer pressure launched by the human fresh search, all for insignificant or unproved ‘wrongdoings’! Some local Chinese legislators have passed bills seeking to ban the human flesh search engine. Their actions have sparked a nationwide controversy over an individual's right to privacy versus the public's right to the truth.

On a lighter note, the Internet has produced many web versions of a modern Cinderella story, as witnessed recently by Scottish singer Susan Boyle’s instant rise to fame, which was possible only with the facilitation of Web 2.0 applications such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Boyle’s story has an earlier Chinese version, called “Lotus Sister”, where an average girl was able to achieve sudden fame by posting her weird poses on campus forums, and subsequently made a living off her phenomenal Internet success. While I am happy for these instant Web 2.0 stars, I am worried about the potential use of such tools by criminals or  terrorists for insidious purposes. To them, true or false, good or bad, does not matter; it is the result that matters. This is why I have called such phenomena “web tumors”, so far they have been benign, but we must be prepared in case they become malignant to “web cancers”.

All of this convinces me that the Tower of Babel story has an important point. Some times, we must curb our ability and slow our desires and pride.

Beyond X 2.0

I believe there must be a balance between the capacities of technology, humanity’s adaptability, and nature’s sustainability, but we must move forward.

The first thing we need is a new framework for computational sociology suitable for “complex analysis” in “complex spaces” and real-time computable when dealing with issues of cyber/physical interactions. A century ago, studies of particles, the universe, and the speed of light led to such modern theories in physics as relativity, cosmology, and quantum mechanics, it has since developed into the basis of our current technology, including web technology. Social studies face the same problem now: while the web is able to link all individuals (social particles) to the whole population (social universe) through instant information change at the speed of light, to move forward safely and effectively as a society, we must find the modern physics counterpart of sociology for social studies.

Another important thing is that we need to think about the bigger picture and change our attitude toward web technology and X 2.0 applications. The industrial age was built upon natural resources (coal, ore, crude oils, etc), and extended our physical space and capacity greatly. From those resources, we have developed steel, energy, chemical and other industries. Now we are at the edge of the knowledge age and our intellectual space and capacity can be extended significantly, but where and what are the “natural resources” and “industries” for this new age? I believe data in cyberspace must be one of major resources for the construction of this new age and search engines are one example of its corresponding new industries. More knowledge industries can come out of Web 2.0 and X 2.0; this is where we should go next.

Computers started as simple computing devices and developed into computer sciences and information technology, now the Internet created for a platform for easier communication is developing into new web technology and sciences. As a result, I hope our intellectual space and capacity will be enhanced greatly and that the knowledge age will soon be as mature as the industrial or information age. The road to this destination may be uncertain and cloudy, but luckily, we now have cloud computing” and “fuzzy logic” to help. For our readers, one thing is very clear, AI and intelligent systems will be critical to our final success.

   A Letter from Editor (From IEEE Intelligent Systems)


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