TechCrunch’s Arrington banish-ed by AOL?

One of the strangest posts in the tech blogosphere is yesterday’s rant at TechCrunch, suggesting that blog owner AOL may shake up things and remove TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington:

TechCrunch has arguably been the most influential technology blog for some time, especially for startup news and inside information.   Spawned by Silicon Valley insider Mike Arrington, TechCrunch has been a key source of news, inside information, and gossip about the Silicon Valley Startup scene.

The AOL dispute appears to have come from concerns over potential conflicts of interest by Arrington as he launches a new venture capital fund that will support companies covered by TechCrunch.

SyNAPSE Update from Dr. Dharmendra Modha’s Team

Dr. Dharmendra Modha and his SyNAPSE gang recently published an excellent paper about “Cognitive Computing” that updates what appears to be excellent progress in the effort to create a general artificial intelligence:

One of the paper’s most notable items asserts that within a decade the project expects to have the computational scale needed for human level modelling, though it also notes that this is not the same as creating a model of the human brain – this may require computational structures yet to be invented.    However on balance it would seem the SyNAPSE project continues to build on their core assumptions, taking us ever closer to the holy grail of technology – a general artificial intelligence.

More at Dr. Modha’s blog , where we learn more about the new approaches the SyNAPSE team at IBM will take in an effort to achieve human quality cognition in a machine:

18 Aug 2011: Today, IBM (NYSE: IBM) researchers unveiled a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. The technology could yield many orders of magnitude less power consumption and space than used in today’s computers.

In a sharp departure from traditional concepts in designing and building computers, IBM’s first neurosynaptic computing chips recreate the phenomena between spiking neurons and synapses in biological systems, such as the brain, through advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry. Its first two prototype chips have already been fabricated and are currently undergoing testing.

Called cognitive computers, systems built with these chips won’t be programmed the same way traditional computers are today. Rather, cognitive computers are expected to learn through experiences, find correlations, create hypotheses, and remember – and learn from – the outcomes, mimicking the brains structural and synaptic plasticity.

Artificial Intelligence Pioneer Marvin Minsky on the current state of AI Research

Here, from PBS, is an interesting interview with Marvin Minsky, one of the key pioneers of Artificial Intelligence research.    Although Minsky remains somewhat optimistic about developing a general artificial intelligence, he believes that the current approaches are misguided and too narrow – that researchers are now looking for “a magic bullet”, and that it’s going to take a lot longer to create generalized AI than if we applied a more general approach:

How hard is it to build an intelligent machine? I don’t think it’s so hard ….   The basic idea I promote is that you mustn’t look for a magic bullet. You mustn’t look for one wonderful way to solve all problems. Instead you want to look for 20 or 30 ways to solve different kinds of problems. And to build some kind of higher administrative device that figures out what kind of problem you have and what method to use.

Now, if you take any particular researcher today, it’s very unlikely that that researcher is going to work on this architectural level of what the thinking machine should be like. Instead a typical researcher says, “I have a new way to use statistics to solve all problems.” Or: “I have a new way to make a system that imitates evolution. It does trials and finds the things that work and remembers the things that don’t and gets better that way.” And another one says, “It’s going to use formal logic and reasoning of a certain kind, and it will figure out everything.” So each researcher today is likely to have one particular idea, and that researcher is trying to show that he or she can make a machine that will solve all problems in that way.

I think this is a disease that has spread through my profession. Each practitioner thinks there’s one magic way to get a machine to be smart, and so they’re all wasting their time in a sense.

I was surprised to see his lack of optimism in the face of so much progress in areas I’d argue are very generalized indeed.     The DARPA  SyNAPSE project we’ve discussed several times here at Technology Report remains the best funded AI research to date, and lead researchers seem to feel optimistic that progress there could lead to a human scale general intelligence within several years rather than several decades that Minsky implies may be required given the new approaches.

Simply put, DARPA SyNAPSE  is creating a computing infrastructure to rival the human brain in terms of connectivity, and counting on the possibility that we are dealing mostly with *quantity of connections* rather than *quality of connections* when we talk about human level intelligence.

The other very promising project for generalized AI is somewhat at odds with the DARPA SyNAPSE view.    The Blue Brain project is also a promising development ground for general artificial intelligence, but the approach is very different as described by Dr. Henry Markram, the project manager at Blue Brain.      The Blue Brain team is focusing more on “reverse engineering” animal brains and eventually a human brain.

Given the new level of enthusiasm and funding from DARPA, it seems likely that progress will continue at a faster pace that at anytime in the past.

Ironically I think Minsky’s early optimism in the 1950s  was more justified than his current pessimism, though his observation that academics are working in too much isolation is certainly true.    I’m often surprised how many technologists don’t seem to understand many simple aspects of human biology and evolution and vica versa.     Human intelligence, though intriguing, continues to be overrated as an phenomenon of exceptional quality.    We’re a somewhat arrogant creature by evolutionary design, but that does not justify our self importance.    Machines surpass most of us in most compartmentalized aspects of intelligence and many aspects of creativity  (mathematics / translation and language / game playing / music / information retrival, etc, etc).    It seems reasonable that what we call “consciousness” may only require massive connectivity – perhaps something as simple as creating a fast, multitasked conversation between different parts of an artificial brain.

Google “Chromebook” Computers look very promising.

Google just announced a new computing platform called “Chromebook” that looks very promising.    Working with partners Samsung and Acer, the new computers will optimize the computing experience for the web, taking advantage of Google’s Android operating system, the Google Chrome browser, gmail, Google documents, Google maps, and the many other great web-centric products Google has cooked up since they began their amazing online journey from obscure search engine to online advertising juggernaut.

As with most Google developments, the user advantages come at the expense of Google competitors like Microsoft and perhaps even Apple.    Chrome as a browser has not caught on as well as Google would have hoped, but this may be their opportunity to more broadly showcase that excellent product which in my opinion offers superior “browsing and multitasking” capabilities.     Although the iPad market seems almost impenetrable, tablet computers using android may reach a price point that starts to challenge Apple dominance in this market.    However I would not bet on that … yet.   Apple has an amazing ability to market and mine the public’s enthusiasm for style in ways that keep them on top of the gadget market even with their relatively expensive lines of gadgets.

The new Chromebooks are available June 15 in the US and UK

Official Google Blog: A new kind of computer: Chromebook

Intro to Chromebook

GateKeepers Post to Launch February 1st

An interesting and articulate group of voices in online publishing have come together to launch “The Gatekeepers Post”, a social community that will be discussing and writing on topics of interest to the publishing community, including how fast and powerfully online publishing is changing the landscape in publishing and news.

Press Release:


FOR RELEASE: Monday, January 31, 2011

Author and media personality, Jeff Rivera launches The Gatekeepers Post, a new social media community intended to make a significant impact on the conversation of book publishing.

With the decline in print book sales, the increase of eBooks, the rapid closing of independent bookstores and the boom in young adult fiction, the world of book publishing is experiencing a flux few could have anticipated even five years ago.

Industry outlets have struggled to keep pace with the new developments in publishing but the changes are happening too fast for anyone to cover it all.  The industry and public’s insatiable appetite for fresh news on the rapid changes has only increased.

The Gatekeepers Post hopes to satisfy that appetite.  A cross between Huffington Post and Publishers Weekly, the outlet features some of the most important and respected voices in book publishing.

Joined by an editorial advisory board that includes the likes of print and online magazine editor Neal Boulton;TechSavvy high-tech consulting CEO Scott Steinberg; New York Times bestselling author and Publisher, Zane; Planned TV Arts’ Rick Frishman; Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives Ed Nawotka; Smashwords’ Mark Coker; Thomas Dunne Book’s Brendan Deneen; publisher and veteran literary agent Richard Curtis; Editor-in-Chief of Richard Blakeley; former Writers Digest Books Editor-at-Large Jane Friedman; Authorpreneur Joe Konrath; and Hachette’s Director of Multicultural Publicity Linda Duggins.  The new outlet also features Gatekeepers bloggers that site founder and Editor-in-Chief Jeff Rivera personally handpicked. “The support from the industry has been overwhelming,” says Rivera, “I’m proud of the high caliber of Gatekeepers and guest bloggers who’ll be joining us.”  Veteran agents, major editors, librarians, publishers, publicists and authors such as New York Times bestseller Alisa Valdes Rodriguez will be lending their voice to the community as well. Book publishing heavy weights such as Andrea Barzvi of ICM, Keith Ogorek of Author Solutions, Harvey Klinger of the Harvey Klinger Agency, Bill Gladstone of Waterside Productions, Glenn Yeffeth of BenBella Books, Steve Wilson CEO of  Fast Pencil and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of Gotham Group have also joined.

A steady stream of book-centric reviews, headlining news, articles, and op-ed pieces, will be incorporated within the outlet along with forthcoming special events such as virtual panel discussions and online conferences.

Gatekeepers Post officially launches on February 1, 2011 at midnight.

CES 2011 in Las Vegas wraps up with an estimated 140,000 attendance.

We were sorry to miss CES 2011 which wrapped up today. Encouraging was the high attendance of 140,000. I think this was not a record but it was close, and higher attendance than during the economic doldrums of the past few years. I consider technology to be a high quality and leading economic indicator – if Tech is doing well then the future is looking brighter for the global economy. Unlike some “regional specific” industries, Technology is critical in the developed world where the global economy is in many ways “directed” but also critical in the developing world where much of the production activity takes place and an increasing amount of innovation and services as well.

—– CES 2011 Post Show Press Release ——-


Record-breaking 30,000 Overseas Visitors Experience World’s Largest Consumer Technology Tradeshow

January 9, 2011, Las Vegas – More than 2,700 technology companies across global industries dazzled attendees at the 2011 International CES®, with the ground-breaking event energizing the technology world. The 2011 CES set several new records, including 30,000 international attendees and 22 top CEOs participating in keynotes. Owned and produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the 2011 CES, the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, concluded today in Las Vegas.

“The 2011 International CES was a phenomenal worldwide event that spanned global industries including technology, automotive and entertainment markets,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. “This global technology gathering featured more innovation, more news, more social media buzz and more international attendance than any other show in CES history.”

Preliminary attendance figures indicate more than 140,000 industry professionals attended the 2011 International CES. More than 30,000 attendees came from outside the United States, with the show attracting more than 80 international delegations. CEA conducts an independent audit of attendance at the International CES and final verified figures will be available in the spring.

Major technology trends emerged from the CES show floor including the launch of more than 80 tablets, wireless 4G LTE, connected TV technologies, smart appliances – featured for the first time in show history – and electric vehicles. Ford’s Alan Mulally unveiled the company’s first electric car at the 2011 International CES with its Ford Focus Electric.

The 2011 CES brought top CEOs to the CES stage including Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Verizon’s Ivan Seidenberg, Audi’s Rupert Stadler, Samsung’s Boo-Keun Yoon, Ford’s Alan Mulally, Netflix’s Reed Hastings, Cisco’s John Chambers, Xerox’s Ursula Burns and GE’s Jeffrey Immelt. These executives were joined onstage by leaders spanning various industries including Comcast’s Brian Roberts, Time Warner Cable’s Glenn Britt, Dreamworks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and Hulu’s Jason Kilar. The 2011 International CES conference program consisted of 250 sessions featuring 900 speakers.

As the relationship between technology and the content community grows in significance, the 2011 CES featured a new program, Entertainment Matters, designed for the Hollywood community. As part of the program, the 2011 CES featured the first-ever Entertainment Matters keynote panel with leaders from Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Akamai Technologies, Interpublic Group and WPP.

The 2011 International CES featured government leaders from the U.S. and around the world including United States Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk, United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, along with Commissioners Meredith Attwell Baker, Mignon Clyburn and Robert M. McDowell.

The 2011 CES created phenomenal buzz in the social media world with more than 158,000 CES-related tweets since Monday, January 3, and more than 11,000 page views on CEA’s Digital Dialogue blog.

For more news on the 2011 International CES, visit The International CES will return to Las Vegas next January 10-13, 2012.

About CEA:
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the $186 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. More than 2,000 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA membership, including legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA also sponsors and manages the International CES – The Global Stage for Innovation. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA’s industry services. Find CEA online at


CEA Economic Retreat
March 1-4, 2011, Snowmass Village, CO
CES on the Hill/Digital Patriots Dinner
May 10-11, 2011, Washington, DC
CEA Line Shows
June 2011, New York, NY
CEO Summit and Board Retreat
October 1-3, 2011, Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Italy
CEA Industry Forum
October 2011
CES New York Press Preview featuring CES Unveiled @ NY
November 2011, New York, NY

Contacts: Tara Dunion e-mail:

Sarah Myers

CES 2011 Twitter and Blog Updates

CES 2011 Twitter Updates: