Published Date 4/29/10 2:10 PM
An interesting evolution is taking place at a rather rapid pace ... Earth has been networked, it is now being outfitted with sensor, logging and analysis facilities. Perhaps most importantly, much of the data associated with this is "open" on the web, which provides for many diverse uses - from art to public policy.
I mention Gaia here as a recognition that the concept of the earth as a global system with feedback mechanisms and interactions between biological activity, weather patterns and more is not new. However, technology is providing a significant expansion beyond nature's mechanisms.
Jonathan Harris at wefeelfine -- while perhaps not alone in monitoring all of the world's blogs and tweets -- his synthisis of all of these in real time into a measure of global feelings is intersting. Besides summary analysis by gender, locale, and even weather, you can click though on any of the 'feeling bubbles' you get back to the initial posting that is associated with that bubble.
Hans Rosling provides a more policy oriented analysis of statistical data in a few talks he has presented on TED.com (see 2006 . and 2007 .) Transforming statistical data into a dynamic presesntation he also inceases the impact these can have on the understanding of students and policy makers.
The evolution of Google Earth and Microsoft Photosynth/bingmaps , also demonstrated on TED.com provides a geographical path to 'see' what is on the ground, crowd-sourced data, or statistical perspectives about our home planet.
Kevin Kelley characterizes the next 5000 days on the web as the focus on "one machine" which ultimately will hold all recorded data, and be the target for connection and interconnection of our various devices (cell phone to supercomputer). This may be a source of paranoia, or euphoria from your viewpoint. Clearly we are moving in this direction and one result will be great opportunities for analysis of the masses of data, and along with this representation and mis-representation of the state of the planet as well as it's inhabitants.
At its heart, we are the enablers of this process. Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been calling for the liberation of data to the web, encouraging the emergence of crowd-sourced applications and integration with unbounded and unexpected results akin to the initial Web. His example of the near instantaneous mapping of Haiti after the earthquake is a satisfying example of this.
Part of the problem for any of us is being aware of the emergence of data, applications, analysis, and the potential impact of this in our business activities, our social activities, and the world in which we live. I encourage you to join one of our new Instant Communities on the topic of "what's next" where we can post pointers to things happening and comments about them that will help us as professionals be aware and consider the impact of things to come -- and of course your replies here are always of interest.