Life is a Mystery

19 November 2009 . Comments Off on Kudunomics and the weightless economy

Kudunomics and the weightless economy

Sam Bowles, once at Amherst and now at the Santa Fe Institute, has had a remarkable career as an economist. These days he has been thinking about something close to my heart: “the weightless economy.” As described by Ethan Zuckerman after a visit by Bowles to the Berkman Center:

The big idea behind Bowles’s recent research is that some of the fundamental laws of economics – notably Adam Smith’s invisible hand, may not work in the “weightless economy – the economy that can’t be weighed, fenced, or conveniently contracted for.” Rather than being based on material wealth, knowledge-based economies are based on embodied and relational wealth. In these economies, individual-posession based property rights are difficult to enforce, and socially harmful to enforce.

Network wealth is the contribution made by your social connections to your well-being. This could be measured by your number of connections, or by your centrality in different networks. A simple way to think about this is the number of people who will share food with you. Embodied wealth is a combination of what you know and how strong you are. It measures factors like hunting prowess and grip strength. Bowles asserts that we’re moving from a history where network and embodied wealth mattered more that material wealth – we briefly (for about eight thousand years) moved into a world of embodied wealth, and now we’re moving back.

It might be time to look back to the Pleistocene.

I’ll have to look for the archived presentation when it appears, the topic sounds dense and I’d love to give it a careful listen. I think it may open up my thinking about copyright issues and fair use, though. We have to come to some sensible place with regard to “intellectual property” and I’m not sure how to get there. I hope Sam may help.


19 November 2009 . Comments Off on Access 2009

Access 2009

It looks like Access 2009 was a great conference, and they have many of their presentations online. The shame of this is that until a few hours ago I didn’t even know Access existed. With my US blinders on, I failed to realize that Canada hosted a conference that falls somewhere between DLF Forum and Code4Lib. It’s been going on for a long while, I have no excuse! I’d better start watching some video.


6 November 2009 . Comments Off on Google opens the kimono

Google opens the kimono

Anyone who does business with Google (and don’t we all?) may want to take a look at their Google Dashboard. Google announced yesterday

In an effort to provide you with greater transparency and control over their own data, we’ve built the Google Dashboard. Designed to be simple and useful, the Dashboard summarizes data for each product that you use (when signed in to your account) and provides you direct links to control your personal settings.

And if you are a web devloper, you may also be as excited as I am that Google announced yesterday it is opening the JavaScript library and tools behind Google’s own web apps. This is a big deal, making years of Google development available to even the lowliest web developer. As noted at Ars Technica:

The library, called Closure, includes an extraordinarily diverse assortment of capabilities with functionality ranging from JSON serialization to standard user interface widgets. All of the features are cross-browser compatible and can be readily adopted without marginalizing any users. The library consists primarily of helper functions and user interface widgets, many of which are recognizable from popular Google applications.

This is an astute move by Google. The more widespread the adoption of this toolkit, the more likely vendors keep building browsers that run this code well. Everyone wins.


Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /