The big illusion

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 by hinrich

We believe that gathering data will give us knowledge. As a consequence, the tools that are used to collect and store data - computers - are in the center of our attention when we look for knowledge. It is not surprising that very many software companies exist that promise the creation of knowledge and that we are willing to spend money time and again in better and better software tools. The computer is the interface to the data. The computer can "process" information so much faster.

However, artificial intelligence, one of IT's biggest hope and hype, has still not arrived. More than fifty years later - in the world of computers a small eternity - we still have no "thinking machines". And I wonder when (if?) we will see them.

So, why don't we now draw conclusions from this observation? Computers do not think. Therefore, computers cannot create knowledge. Therefore, humans have to create knowledge. This means, computers can potentially serve us data in an efficient, even visual way. But we still need human creativity and brain power to connect the data. So, please stop thinking that computers will create knowledge. Let's start ensuring that we have sufficient time in our agendas to really think. And also, let's educate and invest in people who will take on the job of creating knowledge and not just manage the creation of data.

Posted in Society

Gadget based copy protection

Sunday, July 18th, 2010 by hinrich


While the Pokewalker which accompanies the new Pokémon HeartGold and Pokémon SoulSilver games for the Nintendo DS has been described as a very nice addition to the game (you can upload a single Pokemon from your game to the Pokewalker and carry it around with you), I also consider it an ingenious idea to help prevent the illegal distribution of the game. The game itself may be copied digitally, but obviously this is not possible for the extra gadget that is included in the original game box.

Maybe this is a trend for the future? For a given game, invent a gadget that is a good addition for the game (and ideally inexpensive to produce) and bundle it together with the game itself. I am curious to see how this will evolve further.

On the other hand, companies like Nintendo still need to consider the right balance between successfully convincing their audience of the necessity and usefulness of such gadgets in the context of their games versus the extra electronic waste that they are producing. This gadget will be utterly useless (unless you would want to use it purely as a pedometer) once you stop playing the game...

Posted in Green

Personalized medicine for side activities

Friday, July 02th, 2010 by hinrich

Most of the discussion linked to personalized medicine centers around the desired effects of a drug. If I have a disease and I need to take medication, which medication would be most efficacious for me?

Why do we not also focus a lot on side effects / side activities? And markers for these side activities? I am not talking about toxic effects that are not desirable, but rather effects of the drug that could also be beneficial for some patients. We already know that the majority of compounds have on average 6 targets. These other targets do not necessarily have to be all linked to toxicity.

If that is the case, we can deduce another consequence: even equipotent compounds and probably also slightly inferior compounds should be developed to commercialization to ensure a repertoire of drugs for a given indication that can be optimal for a certain patient population.

Posted in Science