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Anthony D. Williams

Facebook is ‘infantilising’ the human mind

Baronness Susan Greenfield, a professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford, and Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, has warned that the experience of growing up immersed in hyper-stimulating digital technologies will result in human minds characterized by “short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity.”

The remarks were made to the House of Lords and written up by the Guardian as Greenfield criticized regulators for not taking into account the broad cultural and psychological effects of social networking.

Like others in the field, Greenfield asserts that exposure to digital technologies impacts brain development. “It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations. We know that the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to…

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23 Comments | Tags: Family, School/College

Anthony D. Williams

Born Digital — will children grow up to regret their parents’ actions

Caught an interesting editorial in the Guardian about the propensity of new parents to post birth announcements and images of their newborns on social networking sites, often within minutes of an actual birth.

My five-week-old son has had over 1,400 individual visitors to his website. Within two hours of his birth, he was Twittered because a friend got a text message announcing his birth. In a matter of days his name was indexed in Google. A friend’s five-month-old already has a Facebook page. Anecdotally, I find that a favourite pastime of many new dads in my peer group is electronic communication involving their newborns. Maybe it’s a way to connect both to the newborn and to the outside world during what is a cocooning and potentially isolating time. Maybe it helps dads become involved. Whatever the reason, most new babies these days are “born digital,” to borrow a phrase. What…

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No Comments | Tags: Family

Anthony D. Williams

Crowdsourcing versus citizen science

Following a theme here, I also like the distinction made between crowdsourcing and citizen science by Yale-based astrophysicist and Galaxy Zoo founder Kevin Schawinski:

“We prefer to call this [Galaxy Zoo] citizen science because it’s a better description of what you’re doing; you’re a regular citizen but you’re doing science. Crowd sourcing sounds a bit like, well, you’re just a member of the crowd and you’re not; you’re our collaborator. You’re pro-actively involved in the process of science by participating.”

On comparisons between Galaxy Zoo and seti@home, stardust@home, etc., etc., etc.:

“Galaxy Zoo volunteers do real work. They’re not just passively running something on their computer and hoping that they’ll be the first person to find aliens. They have a stake in science that comes out of it, which means that they are now interested in what we do with it, and what we find.”

On the application of wikinomics…

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1 Comment | Tags: Guidelines for Educators

Anthony D. Williams

Wikinomics for global problem solving

I’ve been working on our follow-up book to Wikinomics and came across this nice quote in the transcript from my recent interview with Larry Smarr:

“Having a wiki world, and having an ability to instantaneously set up mass collaboration, you can solve problems on a time scale that’s going to matter. So if we start having a bird flu pandemic, or if global warming continues to accelerate, we may not have the luxury of what I think of today as the slow speed of coming to answers for the challenges confronting the human race. And so the idea of being able to apply all the brains on the planet to a time urgent situation is something that we are going to look back on and be really glad that we figured out how to do because otherwise it’s going to be too late.”

I thought he summed up what this next…

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No Comments | Tags: Work, World

Anthony D. Williams

United Nations 2.0

I had an interesting chat recently with a colleague who is trying to get wikinomics infused into the culture and operations of the United Nations and finding it tough going so far.

Like many observers of the international scene, I find it frustrating to watch international organizations like the United Nations fail to shake-off the sclerosis and bureaucratic inertia that have marred attempts to get anywhere near meeting the millennium development goals by 2015. As my colleague rightly pointed out, there was so much optimism surrounding the Rio Earth Summit in 1992–a time when the United Nations had a much more positive public profile and, seemingly at least, the clout to make things happen. No more.

Described by my colleague as “closed and insular,” the UN is quickly losing its convening power and ultimately its relevance in addressing the global challenges that matter. Its power and authority have been usurped;…

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2 Comments | Tags: Guidelines for Educators

Anthony D. Williams

Government 2.0 camp in DC

As a complement to my previous post, those of you interested in exploring the cutting edge of public sector innovation will want to make your way to DC at the end of March for the inaugural Government 2.0 Camp. I would be there myself if I wasn’t already scheduled to be in Europe. Here’s a clip from their site:

Government 2.0 Camp is the unconference about using social media tools and Web 2.0 technologies to create a more effective, efficient and collaborative U.S. government on all levels (local, state, and federal).

Government 2.0 Camp will bring together the leading thinkers from government, academia and industry to share Government 2.0 initiatives that are already in process and collaborate about how to leverage social media tools and Web 2.0 technologies to create a more collaborate, efficient and effective government — Government 2.0.

Government 2.0 Camp is the inaugural event of Government 2.0 Club, a…

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Anthony D. Williams

Sunlight Labs launches “Apps for America” contest

Following other similar contests in DC and the UK, Sunlight Labs (an open source development team providing tools to make governments more transparent) has launched an “Apps for America” contest. If you have been following our blog then you already know what this is about. For those who haven’t, the idea is to crowdsource the creation of new applications that leverage public data sets (and in this case, the APIs that Sunlight Labs have made available) to make the US government for transparent, interactive and accountable.

Contests like these are worthwhile for a variety of reasons. One, if we left it up to public officials to make government more transparent I think we can all predict the outcome. Two, contests are a reasonably good way to incent broader involvement from the public. And three, third parties are not contrained by the bureaucratic encumberances and political considerations…

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Anthony D. Williams

The Large Hadron rap

No longer content to lay claim to being the world’s largest scientific collaboration, it seems CERN, which operates the Large Hadron Collider, is now flexing its viral marketing muscles. I had a good laugh at this and can barely wait to share it with my son in the morning.

1 Comment | Tags: Brand, School/College

Anthony D. Williams

Levelling the Educational Playing Field

For those who have not yet heard, Don and I are working on a sequel to Wikinomics that will lift the lid on a wide range of topics that we did not really get to in wikinomics 1.0. So, for example, we’ll be examining how mass collaboration is changing education, health care, science, government, democracy, international advocacy and national security.

Based on our early conversations, I’m already convinced that we’ll surface a whole new set of meaty themes that shed new light on the emerging wiki world. But If the experience is anything like writing the last book, those themes will probably not be apparent until we’re more than 50% through the writing process! So that’s where you, and the broader the wikinomics community, come in.

Over the next 9 months or so, I’ll be using be using this blog to share some nuggets of insight and intrigue from our ongoing…

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1 Comment | Tags: School/College


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