Sunday, February 27, 2005

A small step for the medium. A giant leap for mediakind.

Tim Bray writes...
Jon Udell is really on a roll. He more or less singlehandedly invented screencasting (I first noticed here), and I guess I’m about the last person in the world to have visited his Walking Tour of Keene, NH, which combines Google Maps and GPS and other assorted magic... in case I’m not the last, don’t you be. Something new is happening here.
And he's right. These things ("Interactive Screencasts ?") are not just trying to approximate radio, or a movie. They mark the beginning of a new dynamic video medium with its own integrity and esthetic and with features that cannot be duplicated, in traditional streaming media. That is, I think the what we see Jon doing in these Screencasts --interacting with a dynamic stream of web-mediated activities--is the real emerging phenomena. The Screencasts themselves are "merely" wonderful records of mankinds first steps in a new medium. (Like the video of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, if you will.) (You have to squint to see this in the play-within-the-play of this movie and its predecessor, in which Jon zooms in and out on the map's scale, even as the animation plays.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Paris Hilton as social disease

Bill Bumgarner offers a nice analysis of mass meme reproduction.

If anything, the Paris Hilton Phoneplosion seems to have confirmed that information wants to be free. That link is actually very interesting in that it delves into the history of the phrase and concept.

It would seem that the economy works something like this:

  • A piece of marketable information is obtained. Ethically or not is irrelevant. Hell, whether or not it really happened may not be relevant, either.
  • The person obtaining it brags about it in a relatively public forum. This used to often be solely to news agencies of one ilk or another. Now, it is often on any of a number of cracking/phreaking related community sites.
  • The information is eventually revealed as either proof of the crack or pursuit of the story, depending on forum. Around this time, money exchanges hands -- either someone packages the information and offers "girls gone wild" style "see celebrity X in compromising position" products (as happened in this case) or a news agency pays money to "own" the story.
  • If it is widely considered "newsworthy", the story breaks through channels like DrudgeReport as a "developing story". This creates a frenzy of online interest. For more niche stories, there are other channels of disclosure such as SlashDot, various rumor sites, celbrity oriented sites like gawker, and -- of course -- porn sites.
  • If there was any previous event-- such as the Paris Porn Tape-- that could be associated with this event, it is repackaged and sold and/or displayed along with the new event. What is old is new again.
  • Now, about 24 hours into the new economy, Google's indexing engine starts producing useful hits. So does Google News, if the story is hitting the press. Once this happens, much wider coverage is sure to follow.
  • At this point, the folks in step #3 that are selling the product are likely making some serious cash. It would be interesting to see a graph of sales over time correlated to various disclosure events. At the same time, the content starts popping up in the mainstream; monologues on late night TV, Fark style story repositories, etc...
  • People continue to pay for the content, yet-- at the same time-- the content becomes more easily found through free channels. Sales decline, views decline, interest declines.
  • ....
  • Weeks or months later, the legal system actually starts to make noise in regards to suing for damages, claims against ownership or applying criminal charges. By this time, the event has largely been forgotten within the cultural hive mind and most of the initial events surrounding disclosure-- the pieces of information most important to the legal action-- are now buried in log files, hazy memories or otherwise obscured by the weeks of 'fast culture' events that have occurred since.

So, it appears that an entire economic niche comes into being and fully matures within about 72 hours. Once the market has been established, there is so little cost to keeping the product-- pure information-- on the market that the "buy a snap of Paris's Private life" sites will be with us until taken down simply through someone forgetting to migrate it to a new server.

Come on, people. Can't we do better than default passwords for security products?

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > On the Net, Unseen Eyes:
Oh, and by the way. The focal case in the article concerns security cameras installed in a high school girls' locker room.

"'Just to give some perspective, we have delivered close to half a million cameras, and a Google search produces only a few hundred of them,' Mr. Nilsson said. He acknowledges that default passwords to many camera systems, including those of Axis, are frequently traded over the Internet. Nevertheless, he maintains, Axis cameras are secure against accidental intrusion.

But protecting against accident is not the same as protecting against a deliberate invasion, Mr. Chalos said. 'The images were protected only by the software's default username and password, which the school had never changed,' he said. "

Microsoft: Getting from "R" to "D", and from US to PRC

Microsoft: Getting from "R" to "D"
Their idea: a new type of organization designed to bridge the gap between "R" and "D" and in the process overcome many of the product development bottlenecks and geographic and cultural differences that impede today’s global corporations.

Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC) opened in November 2003 with 20 employees and a couple of projects. By late last year, after receiving more than 30,000 résumés from around China and sparking keen demand among Microsoft’s business divisions, it had around 100 employees, with some 17 major projects and scores of minor ones on its books; this year, the ATC is set to double in size. In the next few years, the center expects to be the key technology transfer point for a host of new products, from Web-search technologies to mobile applications and home entertainment systems. On the strength of these innovations, Hongjiang Zhang, the center’s charter director, hopes to provide a powerful alternative to Microsoft’s traditional strategy of creating products in the U.S., spiraling into Europe, and then adapting them for the Chinese market. “China is still emerging, but China is no longer just a follower,” he says. “They are starting to lead.”
Given the size and "foreignness" of the Chinese market this makes great sense for Microsoft. But if that market becomes the world center of technical innovation, the American Era may end.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Web-Reality Interpenetration Art

Access by Marie Sester


(2003) 4'25"
Marie Sester Project Page | Add Webcast to My Artbox

Choose one to view this video selection:
Macintosh: Real 56kbs (modem) | Real 256kbs (DSL)
Windows: Microsoft 56kbs (modem) | Microsoft 256kbs (DSL)

Marie Sester's Access is a public art installation that applies web, computer, sound and lighting technology in which a robotic spotlight controlled by web-users tracks individuals in public spaces. An acoustic beam system directs sounds onto the same tracked persons, projecting audio that only he/she can hear. The individual does not know who is tracking him/her or why he/she is being tracked. Nor is he/she aware of being the only person among the public hearing the sound. The tracker doesn't know his/her action triggers sound towards the target. In effect, both the tracker and the tracked are in a paradoxical communication loop.

Monday, February 21, 2005

adaptive path � ajax: a new approach to web applications

adaptive path � ajax: a new approach to web applications
Jesse James Garrett gives a name to "Asynchronous JavaScript + XML" and says it represents a fundamental shift in what’s possible on the Web.
The biggest challenges in creating Ajax applications are not technical. The core Ajax technologies are mature, stable, and well understood. Instead, the challenges are for the designers of these applications: to forget what we think we know about the limitations of the Web, and begin to imagine a wider, richer range of possibilities.

It’s going to be fun.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Planet Python

Planet Python: Patrick Logan writes,
"I teach a 'whole team' Agile/XP course a half dozen times a year. I emphasize values a much as practices. Communication is the value at the top of the list. We also spend a significant bit of time discussing how to adopt XP. My first (and often repeated) message is, if you can only take one thing out of this course then take the benefits of 'clear communication with your whole team' into whatever practices you do choose.

Not only is communication the most important value it is also the easiest thing to adopt as an individual under any circumstances. Build relationships.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Discovery Channel :: News :: Report Fuels Debate on Mars Life

Feb. 17, 2005 —While evidence for microbial life on Mars mounts, far more work needs to be done before any conclusions can be made, the head of NASA's astrobiology center said Thursday.

In an interview with Discovery News, Michael Mumma said he has been unable to find any scientist studying methane readings on Mars who is familiar with a research paper, supposedly submitted to Nature for review, that reportedly concludes there is strong evidence for present-day life on Mars.

Nature will not comment on papers under review for publication.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Discovery Channel :: News :: Report Fuels Debate on Mars Life

Discovery Channel :: News :: Report Fuels Debate on Mars Life

Feb. 17, 2005 —While evidence for microbial life on Mars mounts, far more work needs to be done before any conclusions can be made, the head of NASA's astrobiology center said Thursday.

In an interview with Discovery News, Michael Mumma said he has been unable to find any scientist studying methane readings on Mars who is familiar with a research paper, supposedly submitted to Nature for review, that reportedly concludes there is strong evidence for present-day life on Mars.

Nature will not comment on papers under review for publication.

Wi-Fi Networking News

If big business is against them municipal networks must be a good idea
Glenn Fleishman is on a roll
Let’s just cut to the chase: municipal networks must be a viable threat or why the pushback?: Why are incumbent telecommunications firms and cable operators so afraid of municipal networks? They must work or they wouldn’t be spending tens of millions of dollars in lobbying and advertising to fight them. You have the touching daily reports of Comcast and Verizon, just to take two examples from today’s New York Times, weeping over how the taxpayers’ dollars will be wasted, how the municipalities can’t possibly understand how hard it is to run networks—news flash: running an electrical utility is tough, too, fellas—and how the whole project will go down in flames.

It fills me with such civic virtue to know that giant telecommunications and cable firms are so full of ruth and kindness that they extend their gaze down to the level of mere towns and cities, their beneficent knowledge of business, ethics, and operational efficiency bestowed upon grateful citizens.
I also enjoyed....
A little thought experiment: let’s pretend broadband was electricity: The Previous Millennium Research Council today released a report that strongly opposes the entry of municipally owned entities into electrical power generation, distribution, and delivery. The PMRC’s report, sent out by telegraph to business centers around this great country, is dated Nov. 1895, although it will take several weeks for sufficient copies to be printed and distributed by rail to business centers.

Electricity is too important a resource for America’s future to be left in the hands of cities and towns, the council argues, which are inefficient enterprises that take profits from industry in their pursuit of ever-greater control of the flow of capital within their borders. “How big may these so-called public utilities grow in their efforts to stifle free enterprise and increase the size of government?” the report asks.

Groupware Bad

Groupware Bad: " The trick you want to accomplish is that when one person is using your software, it suddenly provides value to that person and their entire circle of friends, without the friends having had to do anything at all. Then, later, you pull the friends into the fold: if one of them starts using the software, they become their own hub, and get the benefit they have already witnessed from a distance.



Email to Ical

LazyWeb, why can't I forward an email to a server, have the server extract event information, and have the email come back as clickable event for ical?

Cybercash on Vacation

A piece of the action (a book to check out)

Joseph Nocera, author of A Piece of the Action, a history of the credit card industry, says digital currency is facing “a chicken-and-egg question” but points out that credit cards encountered the same problem, and that their acceptance took decades. In fact, 2003 was the first year credit cards and other electronic systems carried more payments than bank checks.

As they come to appreciate just how long the road ahead will likely be, some financial cryptographers are searching for niches where they can flourish in the short term. Take, for example, Waltham, MA-based startup Peppercoin, the brainchild of MIT computer scientists Sylvio Micali and Ron Rivest. Peppercoin is attempting to specialize in very small sums (see “The Web’s New Currency,” December 2003).One of its bigger initiatives is developing a cryptographic system that would enable people to use their credit cards at parking meters, an application that would be prohibitively expensive for the traditional credit card network, which has a minimum transaction fee of about a quarter. If Peppercoin’s technology can cut transaction costs enough, it can capture this market and also make it possible for people to spend small amounts online.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ned Batchelder: February 2005

Ned Batchelder: February 2005: Sand painting
This is Ned Batchelder speaking, but he's exactly right. Don't miss this.
I haven't seen anyone do this before: painting with sand as a stage performance. Ferenc Cako stands over a glass plate, making images in sand with his hands. Each image gives way to the next in waves of curves and shadows. It's quite a virtuoso performance. The subtlety he manages with such crude tools is amazing. "

A Conversation with Alan Kay

A Conversation with Alan Kay:

A wonderful interview; I really admire Kay's attitude, not to mention his brilliance.

SF So Smalltalk is to Shakespeare as Excel is to car crashes in the TV culture?

AK No, if you look at it really historically, Smalltalk counts as a minor Greek play that was miles ahead of what most other cultures were doing, but nowhere near what Shakespeare was able to do.

If you look at software today, through the lens of the history of engineering, it’s certainly engineering of a sort—but it’s the kind of engineering that people without the concept of the arch did. Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

I don’t spend time complaining about this stuff, because what happened in the last 20 years is quite normal, even though it was unfortunate. Once you have something that grows faster than education grows, you’re always going to get a pop culture. It’s well known that I tried to kill Smalltalk in the later ’70s...

SF If nothing else, Lisp was carefully defined in terms of Lisp.

AK Yes, that was the big revelation to me when I was in graduate school—when I finally understood that the half page of code on the bottom of page 13 of the Lisp 1.5 manual was Lisp in itself. These were “Maxwell’s Equations of Software!” This is the whole world of programming in a few lines that I can put my hand over.

I realized that anytime I want to know what I’m doing, I can just write down the kernel of this thing in a half page and it’s not going to lose any power. In fact, it’s going to gain power by being able to reenter itself much more readily than most systems done the other way can possibly do.

All of these ideas could be part of both software engineering and computer science, but I fear—as far as I can tell—that most undergraduate degrees in computer science these days are basically Java vocational training.

I’ve heard complaints from even mighty Stanford University with its illustrious faculty that basically the undergraduate computer science program is little more than Java certification.

This project that we started in 1995 was to make Squeak as an implementation vehicle for another end-user system for children. That was done quite well and is being used by many, many thousands of children around the world. The other way of looking at this is to realize that computers are made to be programmed by human beings. Let’s just roll our own. Let’s not complain about Java, or even about Smalltalk.

In fact, let’s not even worry about Java. Let’s not complain about Microsoft. Let’s not worry about them because we know how to program computers, too, and in fact we know how to do it in a meta-way. We can set up an alternative point of view, and we’re not the only ones who do this, as you’re well aware.

our basic language mechanism for both reading and hearing has a fast and a slow process. The fast process has basically a surface phrasal-size nature, and then there’s a slower one. This is why jokes require pauses; the joke is actually a jump from one context to another, and the slower guy, who is dealing with the real meanings, has to catch up to it.

There have been many, many studies of this. This argues that the surface form of a language, whatever it is, has to be adjustable in some form.SF As you probably know, recent research has looked at how different parts of the brain recognize and react to jokes. Physically, they are quite distinct.

AK Yes. All creativity is an extended form of a joke. Most creativity is a transition from one context into another where things are more surprising. There’s an element of surprise, and especially in science, there is often laughter that goes along with the “Aha.”

SF What do you wish you had done differently in the Smalltalk era?

AK I had the world’s greatest group, and I should have made the world’s two greatest groups. I didn’t realize there are benefits to having real implementers and real users, and there are benefits to starting from scratch every few months. I hired finishers because I’m a good starter and a poor finisher, but it took me a long time to realize that I was interfering with them by trying to improve things.

I believe that the only kind of science computing can be is like the science of bridge building. Somebody has to build the bridges and other people have to tear them down and make better theories, and you have to keep on building bridges.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Weather Toaster
Some good links on Qualitative Research and the Association of Internet Researchers from David Eddy Spider's old blog
[PDF] From "Novelty" to "Community: Exploring New Roles for Technology in a Law School Center" by David Eddy Spider

a.(o).i.r links
Look in particular under online resources.

a.(o).i.r book listing
  • Markham, Annette N. 1998. Life Online: Researching Real Experience in Virtual Space. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press. ISBN: 0761990313.
  • Jones, Steve, ed. 1999 (*). Doing Internet Research: Critical Issues and Methods for Examining the Net. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ISBN: 0761915958.
  • Hine, Christine. 2000. Virtual Ethnography. London: Sage. ISBN: 0761958967.
  • Dochartaigh, Niall O. 2002. The Internet Research Handbook: A Practical Guide for Students and Researchers in the Social Sciences. London; Thousand Oaks; New Delhi: Sage. ISBN: 0761964401.
Activity Analysis and Development in a Nutshell

J. Gregory included a link to this in her syllabus. It's a "how-to" on using AT to analyze organizational structure.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The New York Times > Magazine > Lives: Young and Very Inventive

The New York Times > Magazine > Lives: Young and Very Inventive: Nice Profile:
"Young and Very Inventive

As far as I know, I'm the only high-school kid who works at the M.I.T. Media Lab. The graduate students there are about 26 or 27. I'm 17. My free time used to be spent dreaming about things I could eventually build. Now I can point my finger at what it would take to make an idea a reality.... "

InfoWorld: Macromedia and Nokia to bring Flash to phones

InfoWorld: Macromedia and Nokia to bring Flash to phones:

What's the most popular personal computer in the world?

Macromedia and Nokia announced an agreement to integrate Macromedia Flash technology into Nokia's Series 60 Platform for mobile devices, including smart phones.

(the cell phone)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rotundus AB

Rotundus AB: Another idea Remo, Guy and I and I don't need to implement...

In order to move the pendulum is lifted in the direction of travel, the centre of mass gets displaced in front of contact point between the ball and the ground and the ball starts rolling.

Turning is accomplished by moving the pendulum to either side. The locomotion principle is clearly illustrated in an animation.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

CUWIN-- free open source wireless networking software

Wi-Fi Networking News Archives: "CUWiN networks are self-configuring and self-healing -- so adding new wireless nodes is hassle-free, and the system automatically adapts to the loss of an existing node. And, because CUWiN networks are completely ad-hoc, there's no need for expensive central servers or specialized administration equipment.

To set up a network, all end-users need to do is burn a CD with CUWiN's software (which will be available for free at, put the CD into an old desktop computer equipped with a supported wireless card, and turn the computer on. Once the computer boots from the CD, the rest of the setup is completely automated: from loading the networking operating system and software, sending out beacons to nearby nodes, negotiating network connectivity, and assimilating into the network -- all the complicated technical setup is taken care of automatically. Unlike most broadband systems, CUWiN's software builds a local intranet as well as providing for Internet-connectivity -- thus, a town that uses CUWiN's system is also creating a community-wide local area network over which streaming audio and video, voice services, etc. can all be sent.

CUWiN is a cutting edge research and development initiative. CUWiN has pioneered the first open source implementation of Hazy Sighted Link State routing protocol (first developed by BBN Technologies); thus CUWiN's software creates a highly robust, scalable ad-hoc wireless networks. CUWiN's route prioritization metric is based on research conducted at MIT and will automatically adapt to any network topology and local geography.

CUWiNs software is, and always will be, available for free.


ACM: Ubiquity - Crafting a Revolution

ACM: Ubiquity - Crafting a Revolution: "...we know that an average on-screen cursor move takes 3.5 seconds (starting with hands on the keyboard). This may not seem like a large amount of time, but cursor motion is a frequent activity. If you move the cursor a hundred times in the course of an hour then you have spent almost six minutes, roughly 10% of your time, getting nothing productive done. Even seemingly small interface inefficiencies add up.

UBIQUITY: What's your alternative?

AZA [Raskin, Jef Raskin's son]: We have a mechanism called 'Leap.' Leap is an incremental search, meaning that when you want to move the cursor, you find where you want to go, hold down the Leap key, and type what you see. The cursor seems to just appear where you want it to be. Once people sit down and use our system, they never want to leave because Leap is that addictive. When I have to work outside of THE, I find myself reaching for the Leap key all of the time.

UBIQUITY: And so you've shown that this is the fastest way to search text?

AZA: Let me give you a comparison. In the same experiment I mentioned before, it took users an average of 1.5 seconds to move the cursor using Leap, yielding a 43% increase of speed when compared with the mouse. With the same hundred-cursor-moves-in-an-hour scenario, you would spend only two and a half minutes positioning the cursor, wasting only 4% of your time."

ACM: Ubiquity - Mark Stefik on Invention and Innovation

ACM: Ubiquity - Mark Stefik on Invention and Innovation: "UBIQUITY: What are the two questions?

STEFIK: This is very simple but also fundamental. The two questions are 'What is possible?' and 'What is needed?' When a workshop identifies a valuable problem, this is the 'what is needed' question. When it explores what could be done with emerging technologies, this is the 'what is possible' question. The magic is in the dance. The business and marketing people tend to have strong insights about what is needed, but they don't have a good grasp of what is possible, especially if it involves advanced technology. So they limit their search to familiar paths. The technology people have a better handle on what is possible, but less insight as to what is needed. When you bring these groups together productively, the marketing guys might say 'I didn't know that was possible' and the researchers might say 'I didn't know you needed that.'"

ACM: Ubiquity - Michael Schrage On Innovation

ACM: Ubiquity - Michael Schrage On Innovation: "... the real story of American innovation is the folks who adopted these inventions and thereby transformed them from mere inventions to full-scale innovations? Who are the great customers?

UBIQUITY: Innovation is something customers do, rather than inventors or entrepreneurs?

SCHRAGE: Exactly. Who are the great clients? Which organizations made the inventions successful in the marketplace of reality, not just in the marketplace of ideas? "

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

These guys are so good its scary...

PacMan Must Die

cheesebikini?: PacMan Must Die
This is an innovative game developed by Holmquist's students at the Viktoria Institute's Future Applications Lab in Göteborg, Sweden. It's a tweaked-out multi-player version of the classic game Pac Man, with two major twists.

The first twist: characters’ roles are switched. Players control ghosts invading Pac Man's home turf, trying to recover the dots stolen by Pac Man in the original game.

The second twist: the playing field is distributed across two or more devices held by multiple players.

More at

Monday, February 07, 2005

like a terrainium

like a terranium, but not ...

"...The eight-story installation, dubbed the Source, consists of 729 spheres suspended from 81 pairs of cables. Each strand stretches the height of the LSE's 105-foot atrium, and every sphere runs on an internal motor. When connected to a server, the 6-inch orbs form abstract patterns and words, everything from a double helix to news from RSS feeds."

More on the Source, including videos, at

Friday, February 04, 2005

Tools for Democracy / Distributed Journalism

Tools for Democracy / Distributed Journalism

A loose association of voluntary info-sleuths is doing an amazing job of ferretting out the story behind the leaking of a CIA agent's identity, alleged by White House partisans seeking to punish the agent's husband for taking issue with the Administration's pre-war interpretation of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (got that?).

The phenomenon ("A loose association of voluntary info-sleuths...") is an even bigger story than the story they are investigating. Watch the world change...
Dan Gillmor points to an excellent example of distributed journalism in action over at Daily Kos. I was completely blown away by what I saw when I got there. I'm still trying to soak in all the background around the Plame Leak / Jeff Gannon thing but, to be honest, the specifics of this event are not as important to me as the general phenomenon occurring there. This seems an obvious glimpse into a future where involvement by the general population in issues of import to the general population is increased substantially. Herewith some rant and analysis of our present toolset and humble suggestion for improvement..."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Nat'l Academies Press, Frontiers of Engineering: (2003), page 32, in chapter Technology for Human Beings

Nat'l Academies Press, Frontiers of Engineering: (2003), page 32, in chapter Technology for Human Beings

When engineers ignore what is known about the physical world and design a technology that fails, we blame them for professional negligence. When they ignore what is known about human nature and design a technology that fails, we typically blame users for being technologically incompetent. The remedy would be for engineers to begin with a human or social need (rather than a technological possibility) and to focus on the interactions between people and technology (rather than on the technology alone). Technological systems can be designed to match human nature at all scales— physical, psychological, team, organizational, and political (Vicente, in press).

The Darwinian Interlude

The Darwinian Interlude

News Flash: "Now, after some three billion years, the Darwinian era is over."

Freeman Dyson writes...

Carl Woese published a provocative and illuminating article, “A New Biology for a New Century,” in the June 2004 issue of Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews. His main theme is the obsolescence of reductionist biology as it has been practiced for the last hundred years, and the need for a new biology based on communities and ecosystems rather than on genes and molecules. He also raises another profoundly important question: when did Darwinian evolution begin? By Darwinian evolution he means evolution as Darwin himself understood it, based on the intense competition for survival among noninterbreeding species. He presents evidence that Darwinian evolution did not go back to the beginning of life. In early times, the process that he calls “horizontal gene transfer,” the sharing of genes between unrelated species, was prevalent. It becomes more prevalent the further back you go in time. Carl Woese is the world’s greatest expert in the field of microbial taxonomy. Whatever he writes, even in a speculative vein, is to be taken seriously.

Woese is postulating a golden age of pre-Darwinian life, during which horizontal gene transfer was universal and separate species did not exist. Life was then a community of cells of various kinds, sharing their genetic information so that clever chemical tricks and catalytic processes invented by one creature could be inherited by all of them. Evolution was a communal affair, the whole community advancing in metabolic and reproductive efficiency as the genes of the most efficient cells were shared. But then, one evil day, a cell resembling a primitive bacterium happened to find itself one jump ahead of its neighbors in efficiency. That cell separated itself from the community and refused to share. Its offspring became the first species. With its superior efficiency, it continued to prosper and to evolve separately. Some millions of years later, another cell separated itself from the community and became another species. And so it went on, until all life was divided into species.

The basic biochemical machinery of life evolved rapidly during the few hundred million years that preceded the Darwinian era and changed very little in the following two billion years of microbial evolution. Darwinian evolution is slow because individual species, once established, evolve very little. Darwinian evolution requires species to become extinct so that new species can replace them. Three innovations helped to speed up the pace of evolution in the later stages of the Darwinian era. The first was sex, which is a form of horizontal gene transfer within species. The second innovation was multicellular organization, which opened up a whole new world of form and function. The third was brains, which opened a new world of coördinated sensation and action, culminating in the evolution of eyes and hands. All through the Darwinian era, occasional mass extinctions helped to open opportunities for new evolutionary ventures.

Now, after some three billion years, the Darwinian era is over. The epoch of species competition came to an end about 10 thousand years ago when a single species, Homo sapiens, began to dominate and reorganize the biosphere. Since that time, cultural evolution has replaced biological evolution as the driving force of change. Cultural evolution is not Darwinian. Cultures spread by horizontal transfer of ideas more than by genetic inheritance. Cultural evolution is running a thousand times faster than Darwinian evolution, taking us into a new era of cultural interdependence that we call globalization. And now, in the last 30 years, Homo sapiens has revived the ancient pre-Darwinian practice of horizontal gene transfer, moving genes easily from microbes to plants and animals, blurring the boundaries between species. We are moving rapidly into the post-Darwinian era, when species will no longer exist, and the evolution of life will again be communal.