The 1,10,100 rule

Years ago somebody told me about the 1,10,100 rule of innovation. And so far, everything I have seen has confirmed that it is true.

It goes something like this: Let’s say that it takes about 1 unit of effort to create a working demo of your new idea.

If you want to know what it will cost in time and effort to turn that working demo into a beta version of a commercial product, multiply by 10. Now, at that point you don’t have an actual marketable product — you just have a beta version.

However, unlike that first demo, what you have will actually look like a product. In the software world, that means it will have a proper user interface, it will work with various file formats, it will have that all important “undo” function, it will run on all the right hardware platforms, and it will be in the form of an app that can actually be distributed to users, with the proper security protocols built in.

But what if you want to actually make money from your idea? Well then you need to multiply your time and effort by another factor of 10. Because now you will need to have removed all the bugs and put in place a system for periodic updates, you’ll need to do marketing, outreach and accounting, you will need a proper structure to manage and house your staff, a good implementation of data security, and probably some layer of IP protection as well.

Which is one reason that I spend my time doing academic research. My cost multiplier is always 1.

Donald Sutherland

I was saddened by the very recent deaths of Willie Mays, Anouk Aimée and Françoise Hardy. These were all people who had enriched the lives of millions.

Yet in all of those cases I also felt a certain sense of philosophical resignation. Each of them had made their greatest impact on the world more than half a century ago, and we all know that nobody gets to live forever.

But hearing today about Donald Sutherland was different. From The Dirty Dozen to The Hunger Games, and everything in between — and there was a lot in between! — he continued to surprise and delight us decade after decade.

Unlike many others of his generation, he never slowed down. In the last two years alone he lent his unique and powerful gifts to several TV shows, movies and mini-series.

And you never knew what to expect next, but you knew that whatever Donald Sutherland was in would be worth watching, just to watch him. The man’s range was fantastic, whether he was playing comedy or drama or downright evil, and the sheer sense of intelligent fun that he brought to each role was unmatched.

Deep down, part of me believed that he was actually going to live forever — if only to delight us with the next surprising and wonderful performance.

Juneteenth

Juneteenth has long been celebrated as marking the vote by the U.S. Congress to prohibit slavery on June 19, 1862, as well as the enforcement of that law in Texas on June 19, 1865.

Just three years ago, shortly after he was sworn into office, President Biden made it an official federal holiday. Yet another thing I like about him.

But a related event also happened on June 19, which gets much less publicity. Exactly 60 years ago today — on June 19, 1964 — the U.S. Senate finally approved the Civil Rights Act, after a long and bitter 83 day filibuster by senators from southern states.

To give you a sense of the mood back then, here is a quote from Richard Russell, one of the U.S. Senators leading the filibuster:

“We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would tend to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our [Southern] states.”

And that was a cool century after the events of 1862-1865! Alas, some battles are never completely won, but need to be fought again in every generation. To quote William Faulkner:

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

If you’re a U.S. Citizen, you might want to think about that when you vote this coming November.

You could Google it

So much of our communication these days depends on knowing that anything we read can be immediately followed up with a Google search. And this has fundamentally changed the ways that we communicate.

For example, when I wrote my post yesterday about Ted Nelson, I knew that you could immediately do a search to see who his mom was. Otherwise, I would not have written that particular post in that particular way.

You could even quickly learn about the rather large Easter Egg inherent in that post’s title. Again, just a quick search away.

Interestingly enough, Ted Nelson himself is the reason that we even think this way. By communicating through reference, rather than needing to spell everything out, we are literally enacting the concepts that he created.

And those concepts have changed the nature of our world, because we now largely communicate through reference, knowing that anything we refer to is just a Google search away. And this is only the beginning.

After SmartPhones are replaced by XR eyewear, and given the appropriate software layer of LDM AI, those searches will be happening continually with no effort on our part.

I wonder what everyday communication will be like then. I am sure that Ted would be very interested to know as well.

A Gentleman’s Agreement

Today is Ted Nelson’s birthday. The man who gave us the entire concept of hypertext — and therefore the underlying principle of our modern networked world — is, in person, a very charming, well read and interesting fellow.

I remember taking a long walk with him quite a few years ago, during which our conversation touched on many diverse topics. I remember one moment in the conversation quite vividly.

I said to him “I am very grateful for your wonderful pioneering contributions. But, and I hope you don’t my saying this, I’m even more impressed with your mom.”

Ted was quick to emphatically agree with me on that point.

The XR Singularity

I love my Meta Quest 3. The fact that I can work on XR content while also seeing the world around me has been a game changer.

Still, holding a conversation while wearing one of these things can be problematic. I can see the other person just fine, and they know that I can see them.

But I am still wearing a relatively big and clunky piece of hardware on my head. The headset makes me look a bit like a three eyed LGM from Toy Story.

The form factor will certainly continue to improve in the coming years, and immersive XR headsets will gradually evolve to look more like sunglasses. But what exactly will be the transition point?

When will I be able to hold a conversation with somebody else in the room and it won’t be weird at all? At least no more weird than talking to somebody who happens to be wearing sunglasses?

I am guessing that will the moment of XR Singularity. In other words, it will be the moment when immersive XR eyewear will quickly transition from novelty to normal.

Circular doorways

Whenever I see round doors I think of Hobbits. I understand why I make that association, and it’s a wonderful connection.

But I can’t help worrying whether that can also be a bad thing. That visual association is so powerful and prevalent that it sort of takes over.

Whenever many people see a round door nowadays, they immediately flash to the Peter Jackson movies. But the round doorway has existed for centuries in many cultures.

For example, in traditional Chinese culture, it is referred to as a moon gate (月亮门). Moon gates are generally found as pedestrian passageways within garden walls, and they are quite lovely to behold.

I wonder whether, in the fullness of time, the association with Hobbits will fade away, and round doorways will again regain their original cultural associations. And then things will have come full circle.

Computer birthdays

Today is 202th birthday of the difference engine — Charles Babbage’s concept for the world’s first automated digital computer. Intriguingly, today is also the 73rd birthday of UNIVAC I, the world’s first general purpose electronic business computer.

Was this part of some coherent march forward of history, or just a random walk through time? The latter theory is supported by the fact that today is also the 186th birthday of Andrey Markov. The evidence speaks for itself.

If that does not convince you of the chaotic nature of reality, today is also the birthday of He Who Must Not Be Elected. I am being circumspect here because I learned from Harry Potter that it is better not to speak the names of demons of chaos and destruction.

Even demons that have birthdays and social security numbers.

If garages become portals

Fast forward to a future when all the cars are self-driving. Those future automobiles will really be more like a kind of highly granular train service.

So it is quite likely that they won’t sit in garages waiting to be used, since that would be quite inefficient. Rather, they will be deployed as needed. When they are done taking one set of passengers somewhere, they will be put into immediate service ferrying somebody else.

And that means houses will no longer need garages. Yet there are millions of houses in existence with garages attached. Whatever will become of all those garages?

One possibility is that they will be converted into portals, places people will go to have immersive experiences of co-location with friends, family and business associates. In this scenario, Zoom meetings will evolve into something resembling the Star Trek Holodeck.

That may or may not happen. But it would be nice if it did, if only because it would be nice not to need to tear down all those garages.