Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will the Next Google be a Prosumer-Based Quantification Company?

To scale as quickly as Google has a new company will need to generate serious end-user value, monetize effecively, and take a new approach to human resources. One possible future Google is an organization specializing in prosumer-based quantification (structured crowd-sourced info mining) that can scale up very quickly based on contracts and growing content advertising rates. Such a company could have a large and very necessary effect on the global economy as we enter the knee of the curve.


Here's a speculative timeline of such a company (2011-2015), dubbed Quantification Company, that I quickly threw together to get the discussion and simulation rolling:


2011 - Launch: A logical outgrowth of flash mobs, open mapping parties, and steadily rising prosumerism, the Quantification Company (QC) was created in 2011 with the mission of "organizing and accelerating the comprehensive quantification of Earth's most valued systems." The for-profit organization relied on a small core of programmers, salespeople and community managers to catalyze quantification cascades, better known as Data Swarms, for a large variety of clients, but mostly municipalities and large corporations. Early efforts were kept simple and focused mostly on the rapid and/or real-time HD video mapping of U.S. cities, national parks, and other under-quantified areas of interest. Traffic-based fees were paid out to citizen quantifiers who captured and uploaded the best geographic footage and/or commentary. Though they were slightly nervous at the ambition and direction of the QC, competitors like Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia were happy to see traffic and content flow through their systems.


2012 - Rapid Growth, Big Contracts: Having noticed the high-quality information netted by the early efforts, various governments and powerful non-profits turned to the QC, which they viewed as a higher-order CraigsList, for their large-scale survey and mapping efforts. The largest of these contracts was a deal with the economically suffering European Union to generate pro-tourism video and guides for ALL major tourist sites on the continent. The deal was extended to include previews and coverage of the London summer Olympic games, which generated the largest web video audience for any event in human history.


The combination of new contracts and a growing prosumer base allowed the QC to dramatically scale its core staff and expand into other languages and quant sectors. With revenues totalling more than $20 million, the QC announced in September 2012 that it had become profitable. This fueled speculation of a near-term public stock offering and spurred numerous copy-cat efforts, most notably by non-profit Wikipedia. The company also turned down several aquisition offers form companies like Microsoft, Google, IBM and Johnson Controls.


2013 - Widespread Adoption, Competition: As the worldwide economic recovery finally got underway and more people began to understand the catalytic value of quantification, individuals and organizations of all sorts began to rely on the QC to crowd-source many of their critical projects. Reality shows and online video super-producers requested QC support for their shoots. Sporting events like the Tour de France, NYC Marathon and even stadium-based games relaxed their stances on copyright and regularly supplemented their coverage via the QC and the web. Universities looking to expand research eforts while reducing cost turned to the QC for structured data mining efforts. Small start-ups began to launch businesses that sat atop QC platforms, negotiating sub-contractor deals.


At the same time, a big quantification backlash led by non-profits, private activists and certain governments began to pick up steam. New anti-quant legislation was enacted, preventing the quantification of certain regions and zones.


At year's end the QC reported $300 million in net annual profit and announced that it would go public in 2014. But competition from a revamped Google Knol, Wikipedia, Video Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft, as well as home-grown efforts in China, Russia, India, Japan and Brazil. Wikipedia, in particular, began to grab Data Swarm market share as many organizations preferred to do business with a well-established non-profit. The QC attempted to counter many of these efforts by striking exclusive deals with Open Street Map and IBM.

2014 - Racing to Quantify the Developing World:
As quantification revenues began to rise for individuals and the recovered world came around to the import of developing prosumer markets, the deliberate quantification market grew in both scale and complexity. To spur connectivity and global economic growth, a UN-led coalition of governments and enterprises funded massive quantification efforts in developing regions including Africa, the Middle East, China and Mongolia. These contracts were divied up amongst the leading quantification companies, but the well-repected QC walked away with more than 40% of the business. In a show of good faith (and smart business) the QC lowered its profit margins for these regions and subsidized the purchase of new hi-tech input devices, allowing more new regional prosumers to earn more income through these efforts. This proved to be a brilliant move as upwards of 100 million new prosumers developed a positive view of the QC brand vs. its competitors, in particular Wikipedia. In particular, the QC became the quant market of choice for new sub-contractors that sprung up in these regions.



At the same time, the QC pushed hard to develop innovative new brain, body, corporate, refuse, solar system, ocean, and uninhabited region quantification efforts. It invested heavily in mico-robotics, sensing, neural net, life-logging and BCI technologies.


Despite heavy investment and running its development programs at just above cost, the QC reported annual operating profits of $2.3 billion, thus confirming that it was indeed the "next Google". Due to the massive growth and huge growth prospects, the QC decided to remain private, forgoing the warchest it could have amassed through an IPO.


Anti-quantification efforts grew more intelligent. Certain cities and regions (led by Switzerland, Monaco, Germany and Saudi Arabia) developed their popular appeal by prohibiting quantification. They began funding counter-transparency technology and protocols and came to realize there was a serious market for these strucutres and services.


2015 - Quant Market Matures: By 2015 the annual worlwide Data Swarm market had risen to well over $150 billion. Upwards of 60% of this was paid out to prosumers or small companies via advertising or sub-contracts. Many of the specialized sub-contractors now commanded large revenue streams. 20% of people, most sporting always-on life-log systems, on the planet now regularly participated in quant markets to supplement their revenue. Most countries on Earth were now either spearheading a nationalized quantification faciltator or had struck serious deals with the leading providers.


The broader economic growth fueled by quantification was estimated at several trillion $ since 2012. Still, for the first time, counter-transparency efforts began to chip away at quantification revenues in certain areas. A rise in quant-based crimes and hacks began to alarm people all across the globe, prompting many to join these efforts. Clearly the world was developing pro-quant, quant-neutral and anti-quant regions (physical and virtual), each of which were ideal for different individuals, activities and behaviors. It was now up to the nimble start-ups and billions of prosumers to make the most of this new infrastrucutre.


(Big props to Marisa Vitols who helped generate the geographic quantification concepts.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Google Earth Adds Virtual Time Travel, Moves a Step Closer to Gelernter's Mirror World Vision

Not only did Google add an ocean to its Earth platform today, the company also enabled "Historical Imagery", a new feature that brings to life a crude version of what Yale computer scientist David Gelernter's 1992 prediction of the planet on a “time toggle”.

The Google Blog: Until today, Google Earth displayed only one image of a given place at a given time. With this new feature, you can now move back and forth in time to reveal imagery from years and even decades past, revealing changes over time. Try flying south of San Francisco in Google Earth and turning on the new time slider (click the "clock" icon in the toolbar) to witness the transformation of Silicon Valley from a farming community to the tech capital of the world over the past 50 years or so.

Along with a new 3d Mars feature, the additions have increased the scope and resolution of the largest publicly accessible simulation of our physical system, thus expanding the Google's information scaffolding and future monetization opportunities through an increasingly valuable Mirror World.

The new features also reinforce the notion of a rapidly growing retro-quantification industry rooted in our social desire to achieve topsight over space and time. A resource that quickly allows people to surf physical history is obviously critical to bettering our view of reality and thus improving the efficiency of our economic behavior.

Clearly, Google is prepared to devote massive resources to dominate the Great Quantification Race. I just wonder when they'll open up 1) additional data layers that work together with historical imagery, and 2) a more-or-less open Future Imagery feature that allows planners and forecasters to deposit their future visions right on Google Earth.

Look out Nick Bostrom, here come simulated tunnels of time and 4d idea markets.

Tunnel_Of_Time_2.jpg


About Alvis Brigis

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Alvis Brigis is a media specialist and futurist residing in California. Most recently, he was Story Producer on History Channel’s Invention USA and Executive Producer for The Future of Facebook, the first Open Foresight project to be funded and released to the public. He’s produced and written for TV networks including NBC, VH1, THC and Sundance Channel. Brigis co-founded Future Scanner (a prediction harvesting tool), Swarmado (a mobile content-sharing app for events) and has developed a variety of forward-looking startups. He serves on the advisory board of Acceleration Studies Foundation and blogs about the social side of accelerating change at Social Node. He’s also an avid sci-fi, comedy and quest adventure writer + co-creator of animated silicon valley satire Steve Ice.