Tag Archives: DNA

Analyzing Jay's Genome

Six years ago I mailed a thousand dollars and a sample of my spit to a company named 23andMe to analyze my genome.

What the hey? I’m an earlier adopter. I might learn something from the interpretation of my DNA. I was interviewed by Le Monde and a few others because paying $1,000 for something this far out labeled me as an interesting outlier. Or a nutcase.

I can’t say I’ve been impressed with the results I’ve received over the years. They’re right: I have Atrial Fibrilation. I also have Restless Leg Syndrome. But they’re also wrong: My ear wax (if you must know) is dry. I have an extreme alcohol flush response (I turn beet red).

Other findings remind me of how primitive DNA research can be. Not at increased risk for a heart attack? I’ve had three.

Every now and again I receive email that a potential fourth cousin wants to talk with me. It’s not going to happen.

Some day genomic analysis will help people figure out how to deal with health issues. We’re not there yet.

Learning on the Holodeck

Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll have written a definitive book on virtual worlds, Learning in 3D:  Adding a New Dimension in Enterprise Learning and Collaboration.

Many people think of virtual worlds as the realm of characters in bizarre costumes and companies out to waste their PR budgets. Karl and Tony see a phase change in how people learn.

Learning is social, and I think this has something to do with the power of watching your avatar experience something as opposed to simply imagining it in your mind.

I heartily recommend the book but I suggest jumping around as you read. The first section sets the stage by setting out the fundamentals: the webvolution, the immersive internet, the ineffectiveness of the classroom, and “the brave new training world.” If you read this blog, you already know this stuff. They move on to architecture and archetypes. Everyone will want to read the nine cases which demonstrate a variety of learning environments. If you take part in Thursday evenings’ #lrnchat on Twitter, you can skip the sections on traditional design; you have already witnessed the ADDIE wars. The implementation advice is priceless, as are the essays by four revolutionaries.

Tony and Karl have convinced me that 3D learning is on the way. I hate to be a stick in the mud but I don’t yet think it’s ready for prime time. It’s going to be a while before most corporate citizens will be comfortable with this. Many workers’ minds are too calcified to handle the concept of avatars and alternative realities. Give it five years, and people will be saying “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”

I don’t expect 3D learning environments to thrive in Second Life. Second Life is a pioneer and is the gorilla in the 3D space right now. However, SL can’t shed its DNA, and corporations aren’t going to train workers while the twisted sisters next door solicit customers.

Conservative organizations and schools are more likely to adopt environments developed specifically for business and academic applications. Examples are the knowledge worker environments developed by Proton Media and the interactive simulations coming out of Toolwire.

ProtonMedia: a professional environment, no funny hats

The Future of the Book

Last night several dozen of us convened at the NextNow Collaboratory in Berkeley to discuss the future of the book.

Future of the Book

Everyone came armed with passion, questions, and issues about books. More than half the group were published authors, so we were personally invested in the future of publishing. The opening self-introductions became so engrossing that I was tempted to declare the session an un-meeting and throw away Clark’s and my loose script for the evening.

I gave the briefest of introductions the DNA of printed books. I credit Aldus Manutius with inspiring the democratization of books. In 1499, Aldus printed the first paperback, sized to fit in a traveler’s saddlebag. Here’s a page from the paperback, alongside a page from The Social Life of Information.


You would think that five hundred years would have inspired a bit of innovation, but of course you would be wrong. By and large, books still come with one size and one color of type, unbroken lines filling the page, no emphasis or underlines or highlights or diagrams.


This photo from the front page of last Sunday’s New York Times evokes many of the themes we talked about. The net has changed everything. Young people read screens, not paper. Plus, we’re all potential publishers now.

Publishing traditionally provided editorial, production, and marketing services. Today I can buy very rapid, very good, very low-priced editing from India. On-demand publishers will print as many (or as few) copies as you like. And publishers’ traditionally shoddy marketing is even more worthless in the days of online reputation and long-tail distribution.

Our group brainstormed a list of what’s good about books and what’s not so good…

Future of the Book Notes

…and then we talked about editorial control, the experience of reading, cherry-picking the good stuff, mixing and matching content, and creating learning experiences. I retold Clay Shirky’s anecdote of the little girl eyeing the television and then asking “Where’s the mouse?” Is there any excuse for things that are not interactive?

The Amazon Kindle I passed around the room was so forgettable that no one mentioned it during the next 90 minutes.

As the evening was coming to a close, people offered their thoughts on the issues. Here they are:

Please add your thoughts in the comment section.



Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?, New York Times, July 27, 2008
The New Readers
Further Reading on Reading, NYT

Flat World Knowledge, Jay’s observations of Flat World Knowledge

Dawn of the Un-book

Jay’s experiences with Kindle, part 1 and part 2

Memes have invaded Earth & are colonizing us!

Life evolves without a designer. All it takes is replication (copying), changing conditions to adapt to, and low survival rates.

DNA is a species’ overall blueprint. Strings øf DNA are composed of genes. Making copies of genes is not exact; some don’t replicate precisely. Mutations happen. Offspring vary.

Psychologist Susan Blackmore gave this analogy at PopTech. She holds up a coat. What if we made ten copies of the coat? Some would have slightly shorter sleeves, others would appear in a different color, and other variations would appear. Next you take the best coat of the lot, best being defined as the most appropriate to surrounding conditions, and throw the rest away. Then you make ten copies of that coat. And again. And again. If the room became colder, eventually heavy coats with fur collars would predominate since they’re the best adapted for cold temperatures.

Animals and plants have always evolved this way. No plan. No brain behind it. Just replication with variable results and survival of those which adapt the best. Polar bears are white and fat because that works best where they live, not because a deity decreed, “Let there be fat, white polar bears.” From a gene’s point of view, propogation is the only goal and replication is at the heart of it. DNA had a monopoly on replication until humans came along.

Humans replicate culture. People share ideas and pass them along to others. These snippets of culture, called memes, are modified in the retelling. Just like the coats, the memes with the best fit with current conditions persist. And just like the genes, memes exist only to propogate. So now we have two sorts of evolution going on, the genes and the memes.

The memes are making tremendous advances. What would help memes spread among humankind? Language certainly made it easier to transmit memes from one to another. So did writing. And printing. And the telegraph. And radio. And television. And now the net. The memes are using us to expand their reach.

This gets scary. Memes don’t know when to quit. For a meme, more is always better. We are depleting the earth’s resouces in service of memes. Susan Blackmore suggests we all wake up to what’s going on.

I’ve used the term meme for years, but until hearing a podcast of Blackmore while hiking this morning, I’d never drawn the obvious implication.