The launch event of my next book – Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter : Personal development through social meditation – from shamanism to transhumanism

Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter: Personal development through social meditation – from shamanism to transhumanism is a book about the evolution of meditation. The title, Meditation in the Age of Facebook and Twitter, is limiting and perhaps even a little misleading, because I hope the ideas I discuss in this book will outlive websites like Facebook and Twitter.

The book was announced on June 6, 2011 at the B B King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square, New York as part of The Realtime Report’s Realtime NY 11 conference and the official launch date is Jan 20 2011

The Realtime Report conference is an appropriate place to launch the book! We live in a ‘realtime’, ‘always-on’ world and these networks and connections impact our minds and, as I propose, the very nature of human evolution.

Most people accept that Meditation can bring about a lasting change in your life. At the simplest level, it can help you relax. But meditation, as we describe in this book, could be a lot more i.e. a technology that could lead to an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution.

The book draws on both the ancient and the modern taking a secular perspective

A friend who read an early draft of this book called it a ‘platypus of a meditation book’ in reference to the Duck Billed Platypus . The Duck Billed Platypus is an evolutionary ‘missing link’, an interim stage. Like the Platypus, this book is evolutionary bridge between meditation as it is understood today and the evolution of meditation as spirituality, technology and an understanding of our minds converge.

Meditation conjures up images of a monk-like existence divorced from everyday life. In contrast, I propose a different image, that of an air traffic controller, where your mind receives many inputs, the stakes are high and split second decisions and intuition are a part of the job.

While the stakes are less serious for us, we all relate to this situation and if meditation can help us solve the problem, it can have practical use in our increasingly complex lives

In this book, I propose that we are now entering the fourth age of meditation (following the previous ages of Shamanic meditation, Religious meditation and ‘Leaderful/Guru Led’ meditation). In the fourth age of meditation, meditation becomes a technology that will cause an exponential uptake in human intelligence and evolution. The starting point for this exponential uptake of human intelligence is our brain and our mind. More specifically, the exponential uptake of intelligence could be brought about by a connectivity and enhancement of minds through networks and technology. In that sense, meditation is a ‘transhumanist’ technology and networks are the underlying paradigm of the fourth age of meditation.

All networks, including neural networks and social networks, have a common theme. In the fourth age of meditation, we take a network based ‘two-sided view’ of meditation. On one hand, meditation is a disconnection from the emotional attachment to the flow of messages. This is the historical/ conventional understanding of meditation. But we also explore the other side of meditation i.e. the ‘connectivity’ aspect of meditation, with it’s fascinating possibilities.

The book shows you meditative techniques using brainwave technology.

It addresses questions like:

• How will our brain evolve through transhumanist meditation?

• How can we use technology to enhance our meditative state?

• What are the future implications for society, culture and spirituality?

• If we take the approach of ‘gedankenexperiment’(thought experiment), how would the world look like as we evolve?

• How would our Identity and relationship with the world change as we continue to change, evolve and enhance our minds through a fusion of meditation, networks and technology?

The book also studies social meditation augmented by technology as an on going exploration. Working with Neurosky headsets (see the cool technology behind this at Neurosky brainwave technology) we are creating a collaborative, technology based meditation concept using the Neurosky APIs. Think of it as a ‘game’ where you can synchronize with each other in a group

If you want to stay in touch and also receive the first chapter after the launch event, please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com . The book will be launched in August in Europe and October in North America

The four holy cows of the Mobile Data industry

holycow.jpg

I am speaking at the O Reilly Web 2.0 expo next week on Mobile Web 2.0. The Web 2.0 expo is well worth attending for all the latest developments about Web 2.0. If you are attending this event, happy to meet up – please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com. You can buy the book at this link Mobile Web 2.0

My views of the Mobile Data Industry are different from those followed by the industry as a whole. Here are four ‘holy cows’ which I think are not so sacrosanct on reflection. Inbuilt in these ideas is the belief that the Mobile Data Industry is a different incarnation of the Internet. So, here are the four principles, which we take for granted today, but are severely limiting the industry.

a) The obsession with Mobile Youth: I have blogged about the belief that Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy . Many in the industry will disagree with this. We have been lulled by the success of the Youth downloading ringtones and simple mobile games. So, we assume that a focus on the Youth is the way to go in future. The IPTV industry does not write reports about ‘IPTV youth’, the fixed line industry does not write reports about ‘Fixed line youth’ – but yet, we, with a gollumesque glint in our eyes, we continue to claim a whole demographic when we talk of the idea of ‘Mobile Youth’. Youth ofcourse don’t care – nor do they want to be owned as such. All they want to do is communicate.

Four years ago, they used text messaging. Today, they use MySpace. In both cases, they are communicating – but in the later case, mainly immobile.

Yet, for those who continue to insist about the long term significance of Mobile Youth, here is a question: Is the Web mainly gay? The answer ofcourse is no. However, in the early days of the Web, the gay community was indeed an early adopter to the Web leading to Kara Swisher(author of the book AOL.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads, and Made Millions in the War for the Web) to say: “The gay community was a godsend for the company(AOL)”

However, as the Web grew, it became pervasive i.e. for everybody for instance, Online dating has shed its stigma as matchmaker for the awkward and a WeddingChannel.com study showed that 12 percent of engaged or married couples met online

Thus, only by addressing everyone(not just the early adopter segment), can the Mobile Data Industry hope to cross the chasm if we apply Geoffrey Moore’s concepts to the Mobile Data Industry

b) User interface(UI) is the key factors for success: Don’t get me wrong – user interface and usability are indeed important but not to the extent that they cripple the ability to communicate. In other words, if you had something which was difficult to use BUT allowed you to communicate with everyone, it will thrive. SMS is clunky to use. But it connects people. It allows people to communicate. So, UI is not as critical as is the ability for us to communicate using a technology. Think about this when you want to create proprietary clients which have a limited user base(and need new users to download that client)

c) Quality of service(QOS) is a critical factor: Well .. Yes and no. Like UI, QOS is important. It is not critical. Under the guise of QOS, we slow the introduction of new services and hope to charge more for emerging services. Worse, when it suits us, there is no guarantee of service as in SMS (let alone the quality of service!) For instance, when we send an SMS, there is no guarantee it will be received (but we will merrily pocket the money for all SMS messages – whether they are received or not). Until Offcom slapped mobile marketers’ collective wrists , TV shows continued to charge people for voting under very dubious circumstances.

d) The Mobile Data Industry is different from the Internet: This one is the most interesting. As an industry, we want to adopt the growth rates of the Internet – but we are unwilling to adopt the ethos of the Internet. There are a few notable exceptions such as Opera, Three, Soonr and Nokia. Consider the case of Nokia. I was recently on a panel with Jari Hämäläinen, Director Strategic Technologies, Multimedia Strategy and Technology – Nokia at the Visiongain’s fixed to mobile convergence conference . In his presentation, Jari said that Nokia chairman Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo believes that Nokia is going to be an Internet company .

This is very interesting for two reasons: Firstly, If Nokia does succeed in truly becoming an Internet company, then the upside in growth is far greater than it is seeing today. Secondly, the assertion that Nokia is an Internet company is an exception rather than the rule in the Mobile Data Industry. (We don’t want to be known as ‘Internet companies’ – Mobile is ‘different’ remember :) )

But, what does this mean for Nokia? I believe it means: putting the customer/services first and allowing the customer to communicate through ANY network they want. In practise, I believe it will mean allowing the customer to use either 3G, WiFi, WiMax, DVB-H etc. That’s a simple but a powerful mind shift. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo’s profile says that he is interested in political history. If you read history in general, especially the history of the Internet, this makes perfect sense. I am reading a book called The Internet Galaxy by Manuel Castells (thanks Dr Mark Searle for recommending it to me!). First published in 2001, it provides an interesting insight into the culture of the Internet when Manuel Castells says that: The Internet culture is characterised by four layers: The techno meritocratic culture, the hacker culture, the virtual communitarian culture and the entrepreneurial culture and then goes on to say: The culture of the Internet is a culture made up of a technocratic belief in the progress of humans through technology, enacted by communities of hackers thriving on free and open technological creativity, embedded in virtual networks aimed at reinventing society, and materialised by money-driven entrepreneurs into the workings of the new economy

If we understand those last two sentences from Castells(and that’s where I think Nokia or any company which truly defines itself as an Internet company is coming from), then the upside for whoever can tap on to these ideas on the Mobile Internet is truly enormous.

Finally, let us end up where we started – cows! Genetically modified ones to be precise .. The entire science of Genetics was started by Gregor Mendel – an Austrian priest. So, although these views are different from the norm, an outside/different perspective(as per Mendel’s experiments) could enrich the Industry as a whole.

Two final points

a) Although not religious, I am Hindu by birth – so hopefully no one complains about the reference to Holy cows :)

b) Secondly, I am not always critical of the Industry. In this seminal entry Of OpenGardens, Walled Gardens, Tim Wu, Net Neutrality, Carterfone and IMS I advocate against legislation and for cooperation.

Comments welcome as usual. If you are attending the O Reilly Web 2.0 expo next week, don’t forget to attend my talk and email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com if you want to catch up

Image source: http://www.londonstimes.us/toons/cartoons/joel_holycow.jpg

Naked SIP is more likely to succeed than IMS ..

naked.JPG

“Naked SIP” is SIP without IMS. Naked SIP is disruptive as we shall see below.

Wikipedia provides a comprehensive definition of IMS .

The IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) is a standardised Next Generation Networking (NGN) architecture for telecom operators that want to provide mobile and fixed multimedia services. It uses a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) implementation based on a 3GPP standardised implementation of SIP, and runs over the standard Internet Protocol (IP). Existing phone systems (both packet-switched and circuit-switched) are supported.

The aim of IMS is not only to provide new services but all the services, current and future, that the Internet provides. In this way, IMS will give network operators and service providers the ability to control and charge for each service. In addition, users have to be able to execute all their services when roaming as well as from their home networks. To achieve these goals, IMS uses open standard IP protocols, defined by the IETF. So, a multimedia session between two IMS users, between an IMS user and a user on the Internet, and between two users on the Internet is established using exactly the same protocol. Moreover, the interfaces for service developers are also based on IP protocols. This is why IMS truly merges the Internet with the cellular world; it uses cellular technologies to provide ubiquitous access and Internet technologies to provide appealing services.

From the above definition, we see that SIP is at the heart of IMS.

The following definition of SIP is adapted wikipedia

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a protocol for initiating, modifying, and terminating an interactive user session that involves multimedia elements such as video, voice, instant messaging, online games, and virtual reality. It is one of the leading signalling protocols for Voice over IP, along with H.323.

SIP clients traditionally use TCP and UDP port 5060 to connect to SIP servers and other SIP endpoints. SIP is primarily used in setting up and tearing down voice or video calls. However, it can be used in any application where session initiation is a requirement. A motivating goal for SIP was to provide a signalling and call setup protocol for IP-based communications that can support a superset of the call processing functions and features present in the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The SIP Protocol by itself does not define these features, rather, its focus is call-setup and signalling. Some basic functions being implemented by SIP are currently being done by the SS7 network(signalling system 7 network) within the telecoms industry. SIP can do what SS7 does currently but it can do a lot more especially when it comes to multimedia sessions.

From the above, we see that

a) SIP is primarily involved in setting up and tearing down IP sessions.

b) On the web, SIP is used for peer to peer sessions

SIP and IMS go together because peer to peer does not work well with mobile. In a true peer to peer session, there would be no intervening server component. The devices would communicate directly with each other. This could lead to problems in some situations. For example, if the device is out of coverage, in the absence of a server component; no message could be left. Thus, a network component is required. That network component is IMS. Hence, in a traditional telecoms situation, IMS and SIP go together because SIP sets up and tears down the IP session and IMS provides the back end function including quality of service, support services to call management etc.

However, SIP and IMS need not necessarily go together!

There is a great report on this topic by Dean Bubley who blogs at disruptive analysis blog.

In a nutshell, from the report hightlights page:

• SIP – an essential basic subcomponent of IMS – is much easier to implement than a full IMS software framework. SIP-capable phones are already shipping.

• There are many interesting non-IMS applications of SIP on mobile phones, such as VoIP, Internet IM, enterprise IP-PBX access, or interactive games.

• In total, 787m SIP-enabled mobile handsets will ship in 2011, of which 40% will be smartphones. Europe will account for 50%+ of SIP handset volume shipments until 2010, although Japan and Korea lead, in penetration terms.

• “Naked SIP” phones, on which 3rd-party applications can exploit the SIP stack, will grow rapidly in importance, with 48m shipping in 2006, more than 220m in 2008 and 500m+ in 2011. This is a huge threat to mobile operators.

• Naked SIP will be enabled by smartphones OS’s, virtual machines like Java, and the inclusion of “exposed” SIP in many featurephone platforms.

• Although some devices will support both naked SIP and operator-oriented IMS applications, there will be 1 billion more naked SIP handsets shipped, than operator-only “closed IMS” phones, between 2006-2011.

• Internet brands, enterprises, 3rd-party developers and competing service providers will exploit the opportunities from the 1.6 billion “naked SIP” phones that will ship between now and 2011, using on-handset software clients.

• Some operators will attempt to block “parasitic” 3rd-party SIP applications, by “locking” handsets or intercepting network traffic. These attempts will seem clumsy and vindictive, and will likely drive churn and customer disloyalty.

So, what does this tell us?

‘SIP only’ phones could be numerous. They could run useful applications from third parties. They don’t need IMS. They could be true ‘peer to peer’. You could place a VOIP call to such phones from the web because they contain the VOIP stack and the SIP stack.

This makes (naked) SIP + third party applications and not IMS the more disruptive technology!

Image source: (I am sure people would be interested in this one!) ..

Google images + http://burntelectrons.org/media/moznews/mozillanews-naked.jpg

Of Sith lords and the dark side of IMS

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Introduction

I had been following the hype around IMS (IP multimedia subsystem) with some scepticism. On first glance, it sounded depressingly familiar, trailing the ghosts of long dead previous hyped up technologies (WAP. MMS, LBS etc etc). Most of the current media interest focuses on the question ‘Will IMS succeed?’ As we shall see below, this is a silly question often asked by people who are not familiar with the big picture (typically people who approach the industry from the business/marketing side and don’t understand technology)

However, when VON pioneer Jeff pulver (whose views I respect), compared IMS to the “return of the Sith”, I was intrigued. You see, the Sith and Sith lords get my attention(and that betrays my Internet roots i.e. you can tell I am not a telecoms guy originally). So, for the first time, we are talking not of the success(or otherwise) of IMS applications but of deeper (and darker?) motivations behind the hype surrounding IMS.

Of Sith and Sith lords

The return of the Sith is a star wars reference: meaning an old empire clinging to power.

If you need to revise your star wars, after losing the Sith wars with the Jedi, the Sith recouped under a secretive Sith Lord (Senator Palpatine of the Naboo first seen in Star Wars episode one ) and launched a comeback.

When I co-authored open gardens along with Tony Fish in Dec 2004, the walled garden edifice of the Mobile network operators seemed unassailable. It was deemed to be the ideal business model i.e. the Mobile network operator should be both the carrier as well as the provider of value added services. The services provided by the operator are, in some way, preferred to third party services. Users did not have open access to the Internet.

In little less than two years, everything has changed ..

Here are two examples:

a) The biggest exponent of the walled gardens model was the UK operator ‘3’ , (others followed a milder version of the ‘3’ mindset but ‘3’ was the operator which blocked all Internet access(i.e. full walled garden)). Has the ‘3’ strategy worked? As per timesonline, Three UK says its ARPU is 34.50 UKP (50 Euro/60 USD). Of that 25% is data. The majority of data is SMS. The point to note is: A majority of the data is STILL SMS, and that is no different from any other Mobile network operator. If the walled gardens strategy was working, then a majority of the data should be ‘rich media’(songs, movie clips etc), not SMS.

b) Did you notice that it’s a bad time to say that you are a mobile operator. The city is sceptical of the business model and the stocks of many of the mobile network operators are stagnant.

In the UK, Orange was just the latest company to announce that they are ‘not’ a mobile operator(rather they are some kind of a new converged communications company)

That’s a far cry from the strategy only a few years ago(voice revenues are going to decline but data(read some form of walled gardens) will rescue us).

So, the dark forces of walled garden mindset are on the run ..

But .. is there a Sith Lord plotting a comeback to the walled gardens?

Is that walled garden ‘IMS’?

What is IMS

Wikipedia provides a comprehensive definition.

The IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) is a standardised Next Generation Networking (NGN) architecture for telecom operators that want to provide mobile and fixed multimedia services. It uses a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) implementation based on a 3GPP standardised implementation of SIP, and runs over the standard Internet Protocol (IP). Existing phone systems (both packet-switched and circuit-switched) are supported.

The aim of IMS is not only to provide new services but all the services, current and future, that the Internet provides. In this way, IMS will give network operators and service providers the ability to control and charge for each service. In addition, users have to be able to execute all their services when roaming as well as from their home networks. To achieve these goals, IMS uses open standard IP protocols, defined by the IETF. So, a multimedia session between two IMS users, between an IMS user and a user on the Internet, and between two users on the Internet is established using exactly the same protocol. Moreover, the interfaces for service developers are also based on IP protocols. This is why IMS truly merges the Internet with the cellular world; it uses cellular technologies to provide ubiquitous access and Internet technologies to provide appealing services.

From the above definition, we see that SIP is at the heart of IMS.

The following definition of SIP is adapted from wikipedia

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a protocol for initiating, modifying, and terminating an interactive user session that involves multimedia elements such as video, voice, instant messaging, online games, and virtual reality. It is one of the leading signalling protocols for Voice over IP, along with H.323.

SIP clients traditionally use TCP and UDP port 5060 to connect to SIP servers and other SIP endpoints. SIP is primarily used in setting up and tearing down voice or video calls. However, it can be used in any application where session initiation is a requirement. A motivating goal for SIP was to provide a signalling and call setup protocol for IP-based communications that can support a superset of the call processing functions and features present in the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The SIP Protocol by itself does not define these features, rather, its focus is call-setup and signalling.

Some basic functions being implemented by SIP are currently being done by the SS7 network(signalling system 7 network) within the telecoms industry. SIP can do what SS7 does currently but it can do a lot more especially when it comes to multimedia sessions.

SIP is a simple peer-to-peer protocol. It is similar to HTTP and shares some of its design principles: for example It is human readable and request-response structured.

IMS was originally designed for mobile networks, but with release 7 of IMS, fixed networks are also supported. This led to Fixed/Mobile convergence – one of the main drivers for the industry today.

The motivation and inevitability of IMS

a) The business case underlying IMS: Inspite of all the hype and the controversy around IMS, I believe IMS will be implemented. There is a simple reason why. That’s because , from a Mobile network operator standpoint, there is a clear business case for IMS. If internally(i.e. within the Operator’s ecosystem), calls are handled using IP technology, then the Operator’s cost base decreases(and hence profits increase). That’s why I say it’s a silly idea to question the possibility of IMS itself.

b) The question mark around IMS services: The real question is, how will IMS impact services for the end user (and that includes new services which are yet to be created). That, I am much less optimistic about.

c) An analogy with 3G: We saw the same analogy with 3G. A lot was said about the viability and possibility of 3G. Today, 3G exists in most parts of the world. But the sad thing is, 3G services have yet to take off. Inspite of all the hype surrounding 3G, Operators had a business case for 3G because network capacity was already strained and needed to increase(and that includes network capacity to handle voice). So, 3G was a ‘no lose’ situation in any case for the Operator. IMS is the same because there is a defensive reason for Mobile network operators to deploy IMS (as per point (a) above)

d) The offensive reasons for deploying IMS: include the much publicised new services such as push to talk, presence based services, gaming, multimedia conferencing etc. I am sceptical of their success.

e) Fixed to mobile convergence: Both fixed line and mobile operators are deploying IMS because they see growth in getting a share of each other’s businesses i.e. mobile operators want to get some fixed line customers and vice versa.

f) The hype from other players: Besides the motivations of the Telecoms operators themselves, there are many vendors who are also bullish about IMS. Infrastructure vendors like Alcatel and Cisco see IMS as an opportunity to sell more equipment. Consultancies like Accenture and Cap Gemini see the potential of implementation fees. So, suddenly, we see a lot of activity in the industry stirred up by all these players.

g) Overcoming the threat of VOIP: One of the motivations behind IMS was to overcome the threat of VOIP. But VOIP is free! Its very hard to claim VOIP and then charge a cost(which is what telecoms vendors would have to do to cover their investment)

The dark side of IMS

On first impressions, IMS seems to open up the Telecoms architecture to third parties such as IT companies and other providers. The adoption of the IP protocol within the Telecoms network also appears to be a positive development.

But there is a problem ..

We can best understand it by comparing it to a wider debate about net neutrality taking place in the industry today, with net stalwarts like Tim Berners Lee weighing in their arguments in support of a neutral Internet(all packets should be treated equally)

The save the internet site elaborates this debate succinctly on its website

What is saving the Internet all about?

This is about Internet freedom. “Network Neutrality” — the First Amendment of the Internet — ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing Internet companies like AT&T from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.

But Internet providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to gut Net Neutrality. If Congress doesn’t take action now to implement meaningful network neutrality provisions, the future of the Internet is at risk.

What is network neutrality?

Network Neutrality — or “Net Neutrality” for short — is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.

Net Neutrality ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.

Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It’s why the Internet has become an unrivalled environment for open communications, civic involvement and free speech.

IMS is the same effect played on the Mobile data industry.

Hence, it is a potential walled garden at the ‘packet’ level. And that’s why I compare it to Sith Lords! It’s the final attempt to recreate a model which is already doomed.

I am not the only one who thinks so. Martin Geddes , whose views I also admire, says in an article published by the Moriana group

It (IMS) attempts to capture the flexibility and ubiquity of Internet Protocol whist ditching much of the Internet’s design philosophy.

Thats spot on! The Internet succeeded precisely because it was designed as a dumb pipe with the intelligence concentrated around the periphery. In other words, intelligent nodes and dumb pipes go together. ‘Dumb pipes’ means : all packets are created equal. There is no intelligence in the network, only in the nodes.

IMS uses IP , BUT adds some intelligence in the network because it does NOT treat all packets equally.

IMS promises to improve the quality of service, reduce SPAM, provide better quality rich applications(such as video) and so on. The often hidden caveat of this promise is the understanding that packets may not all be treated equally. In financial terms, it translates to premium prices for premium connectivity.

Conclusions

So, there you have it!

I believe

a) Will IMS implementations succeed? That’s like asking will 3G implementations succeed. Yes, they will.

b) Will IMS services succeed? I am not too optimistic

c) Is IMS ‘good’ for the industry as a whole? In my view, anything that violates the principles of net neutrality aka ‘Sith Lords’ is not good for the industry. It all depends on the mindset of the Telecoms implementations. QOS(Quality of service) is a good thing, but tiered price points based on the same principles is not.