Keynote: David Warner, Riding the Cutting Edge of Distributed Intelligence

Serious Games Summit DC 2005, Day 2Keynote: David Warner, Riding the Cutting Edge of Distributed Intelligence (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)

Warner identified himself as “dangerously overeducated.” Characterized his presentation as “confessions of a serial stunt scientist,” and warned that he would jump topics around. The cup of tea I brought to the table went cold untouched — there simply wasn’t time to sit back and take a sip while reflecting; I was leaning forward the whole time, doing my best to keep up.

His main theme was what he called shareable system awareness, which he approached through a concep the called grok-it science (that is, emphasizing the user’s ability to grasp and understand information quickly, and to transfer that understanding to their separate areas of operation, and to offer feedback that updates the whole system). He operates in the real world, calling on a network of nerd friends who can draw on the expertise and good will of people in a diverse range of locations, from Afghanistan to Burning Man.

His ability to make connections and move from one subject to another was tremendous. Of course I wanted him to slow down and go into depth now and then, but that wasn’t the point of his presentation.

What follows are my loosely-edited notes, taken during a breathtaking, rollicking presentation. My notes don’t even come close to doing justice to the content he presented.

The body is part of the interface with the mind, and the “rodent interface” (of the mouse) is a bottleneck.

Neuro-Cosmology. “All realities are virtual.”

“Grok-it Science 101”

“Computers are rocks that do math. They don’t complain and they don’t need pizza and beer like my graduate students.”

Showed fractal graphics, increasing perceptual density, accelerating the perceptive cycle.

In medical school, felt like he had “taken the wayback machine.” Gave a list of technological innovations that didn’t quite take on in the medical community, leading to his reputation as “a medical power nerd that can move faster than memos can stop me.”

For example, he used computer imagery to do special 3-D maps of data that was typically presented as a squiggly line on a horizontal scale.

Suggested using a data glove to sense tremors, showed that “the glove was more accurate than the doctors.” Surgery, therapy. Great set of photos of a quadriplegic girl who controlled a 3D game with facial expressions. There was little market for the product, but (here he does a Darth Vader breath) the military entered into the picture.

Warner described a robot-control system of pagers in a belt strapped onto a soldier… the pagers vibrate according to the proximity of a barrier in a particular direction.

Discussed ways to help military operations designed to give relief to refugees. (His reputation of being able to move faster than memos can stop him.)

Described a system where a worker in a refugee camp can send a worker out with a head-mounted camera. A medical worker sitting in a base camp can superimpose his or her own hand over the field of view of the worker on site, so that the worker on site can touch a patient in a certain area or perform some other assessment action.

Ways to get people who don’t like each other to get along: Put them in a harsh environment and yell at them.

A refugee has legal status, but a poor person who is not a refugee is less visible.

If you’re going to do serious games, make sure you understand the “ground truth” of the problem.

“We’re all going to die. The goal is not to be killed by stupid people.”

“If was the enemy, I would design a system just like the one we have and give it to us.”

A huge increase of internationally-exchanged information in medical newsgroups. No human can read all that information and understand it, but in order to get advance warning of pandemics, you need to get a sense of the data. Showed an example of a map with spheres representing individual mosques, and rings representing the number of violence-inciting verses from the Koran recited during daily prayers.

“Do you know how we’re going to stop the terrorists?” “I dunno.. hit ‘em with memos?”

Used Burning Man and the Superbowl to document diversity and link organizations.

Described a system that linked four computer stations to a network, had four users play multiplayer games together, and used biofeedback to determine whether it was possible to identify emergent leadership potential. (“It turns out you can!”)

Praised the initial response of the U.S. military to the recent Asian titan wave, but “then bureaucracy hit.”

“Ignorance is curable. Stupidity is terminal.”