Comment on Climate Change video from TED

Watch the 2021 TED Countdown Global Livestream | Take action on climate change

So now TED is an entertainment channel? There used to be some thought and effort. But now it is all click bait. 2:35:16? Where is your data and models? All talk. There are 150,848 views at 5:00 am 31 Oct 2021 GMT. I really doubt most people could stand to watch the whole thing.

They say only “do something” but offer no effort on their own to provide the tools for working together. A lot of thoughtful responses already, but no mechanism for people to work together. TED just puts our more videos to try to stay relevant and trendy. And offers no tools for global collaboration that will converge to anything. They just stir up noise and confusion. You try to gather all those models, data streams, groups, people and things affected and combine them. it is not impossible. But it is NOT going to get solved by a video event with no followup, no communication, no curation and careful evaluation. So they talk and do not listen at all. Collaboration is sharing – usually putting careful data and models, including all impacts and resources – where everyone can see all of it. And not just billions of pages dumped on the Internet with no plan, no maintenance, and no thought to using it.

“global climate change” has 30.2 Million entry points. (Google, 5:08 am 31 Oct 2021 GMT)
“climate change” has 418 Million entry points

All those entry points have massive duplication, unlabeled and untraceable content, every group for themselves. And a media event is supposed to change that? Not even likely. Do you think a Million people yelling at the atmosphere to fix itself is going to work?

“climate change” filetype:pdf has 82.8 Million entry points.

And you can bet there is massive duplication, pay to read, and just plain wrong stuff out there. Does Google or any other search engine let you check all of those? Or organize, index, curate and standardize it? No. PDF is “paper”. A human reader has to use their eyeballs, brain and memory to verify, remove all the many ambiguous and untraceable elements. Have you actually tried to access the datasets and models? They are in tens of thousands of formats. Tens of millions of styles and viewpoints and units. Every software group is trying to coordinate with hundreds or thousands or millions of files – just to view a tiny piece of the whole.

The reason progress on “climate change” and “covid” is glacial, it because the current Internet diffusion of knowledge is a game of “telephone” or “whisper”. A group finds something and write a “paper”, a human reader read it, tries to understand, and the repeats it. Someone read that from paper, tries to compare to their limited memory and background and data – and they repeat what they think they read. All trying to represent data structures and process in human word? Not likely. I know it can be done, but human language as a data structure for sharing anything is hopelessly wordy (yes that was deliberate), and hopelessly ambiguous where the words and referents are stored in human brains.

Now I sat in on the early government industry discussions of global climate change in the late 1980’s. It is technically possible to gather all the data and models. But think. If TED is the pinnacle of the ability of the human species to work through one simple global model, what hope is there?

I say that it is simple, because it is finite. You might have to use lots of computers and memory to look at all that has been written and “shared” or still hoarded. You won’t get equations, data, model parameters, assumptions easily from all that stuff. Adobe was cynical and measured when they created PDF. It was to create a monopoly on print format on the Internet. What it did was to freeze all innovation for sharing real results. Likewise Wikipedia. The equations are not equations. The data is not data. Any calculation you cannot just plug in your own numbers. They talk about models, but they don’t put them where everyone can see it in a way that any one can understand. If you say that “oh, you need this expensive education to be able to understand and you need to pay us to interpret it for stupid people”, then I can tell you thousand of other stories.

Try this simple visualization. Stand in an empty field. Put 418 Million paper document randomly out there. Let some be in piles of a few hundred, in no particular order. Now make all the authors, editor, and employers and stake holders stand back around and take fine threads and link every paper in every page to the corresponding person. Now, put the earth above you. Transparent so you can see through it to the other side if you need it. You have infinite zoom. Now connect every noun in all those papers, in all those languages to the real thing in the real world. If there are a billion people mentioned in one, then draw a billion lines. We have a really large computer and infinite memory, so just do it. That is roughly the scale of starting with the human side of climate change. Not the problem itself, but all the people talking about it,for their own reasons and purposes, in their own languages and levels of understanding and needs.

I get upset with groups like the Library of Congress. First they say we are only for the United States Congress and don’t have time for any citizens. Worse, there are about 4.8 Billion people using the Internet now, and do you think, even if LOC knew how, they would help? What I am trying to describe is an attitude of all the libraries, all the think tanks, all the paper technology groups who want to keep things on paper. But if you ever run real models they need a lot of memory computors, sensors, analog interfaces, a deep understanding of all phemomena.

Now, I am going to hurt someone else’s feelings. The supercomputer networks and big data groups – are they, any of them, doing more than just taking funds and spending them on favorite problems – usually to generate new “papers”. When what is need are tools that can handle visualization of any complexity – but where an infant can use it, or a smart pet.

I have looked at global groups every day for the last 24 years. It is sad, and it is hopeful. If I pick any topic or idea, no matter how seemingly obscure, there are almost always going to be ten thousand people who have been working on it for decade. But they speak their own languages, and have their favorite stories and their purposes (who will buy this?) or maybe use it? I understand that my mind only generates possibles from things I have experienced, seen, senses, thought about. And with the massive amount of reading I do, many of my expectations are tied to the memes and preferences of the writers. But I found a decent way to adjust. You know people who review something. How many books and papers and websites can they read, put into a common frames to the whole is accessible and quickly usable for any purpose? Not many if it is paper. And usually not many, if is has finite sponsorship, user community, tools and verifications.

I am working on things that are more important than global climate change. I quit following anything from TED some time ago. I made a bet with myself the kind of thing that would come from them now. And I was spot on. It is not helping people work on the problems and opportunities, it is just talking about them. It is not a facilitator, but media entertainment and clicks.

It is sad, but not at all unusual.

Does anyone know if Al Gore in still alive and working? Someone mentioned his name. The reason I ask, is that when I started the Internet Foundation, an executive at Network Solutions told me this story. ( When I registered the domain it was being held for the original Internet Foundation) And I did not think it was exactly fair to him. They told me that the money from the annual domain name fee that was supposed to go to pay for an independent Internet Foundation had been diverted by Al Gore. The US Attorney General got wind of it, and rather than just put it back to monitoring, improving, finding best practices and policies for global collaboration – they just cancelled it. They asked me why I would take on something that a billion dollar a year Foundation was suppose to tackle, I said, “better one person than none at all”. I did just study for 20 years to be sure I had a rough idea of all that was happening, what was emerging, and how organizations were using, misusing, or failing to use the Internet. Then in the past few years, I have been recommending small changes. I spend much of a year to trace why “covid” response was glacial and so many just took advantage. It should have been a one week problem, and should have spawned a new industry or two, and gone to help all people in all countries. But it ended up me me me.

Sorry, I have lots on my mind. But I tried to contact Al Gore to ask him what really happened. But like most famous people, he has his handlers and advisors. I did trace out what his involvement with the Internet was. That was a raw deal. I know he diverted the money to put Internet into local communities. Well intentioned but illegal.

This media event video?  If someone puts their models and data and a map of the whole online, and want to really let hundreds of million of people work on it together, I would like to see.  But every time I see talking heads, and hand waving and a stage, it is just entertainment and distraction. Thumbs down. And a prayer for TED to go back to its roots and original purposes.

Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation

Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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