Marketing, musings, and the future

The Connectome, Data Overload, and Web 3.0

I met my friend and her twin sister at my favorite coffee shop for our usual salon discussion of politics, literarature, and life. And as a student of modern genetics, it always strikes me when I hear them argue, that we are so much more than our genes.

How our memories, our brain processing works is probably more influenced by something called the connectome, all the connections of neurons in our bodies.  Why is it that practicing something like a piano piece enables us to get better? Why is it that language is more easily acquired when you are younger? It has to do with synaptic connections that are made or unmade as you grow, think and do. One of my favorite scientists, Sebastian Seung asserts “it is really the connectome that makes each of us unique.” Sebastian has embarked on an ambitious project to map the Connectome and look for computational patterns in our brain connections. (Want to help? Check out his crowdsourced citizen science effort to map the retina at Eyewire.)

So on the one hand, I am fascinated by the fact that two genetically identical sisters can look at the same data and process it differently, ending up on different sides of the argument. And on the other hand, I am fascinated by how our brains start to function differently over time as we age.

Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink asserts that our ability to process data sets that are of a familiar type is enhanced as we age. Through a phenomenon called “thin-slicing” we are able to organize the data and see the answer more quickly the more experienced we are. We actually end up needing less data at times to reach the same conclusion.  BUT the key is you can really only do it in areas where you have achieved some level of mastery.

If you overlay these two concepts, you recognize that thin-slicing is a thought phenomenon that is most likely driven by your connectome.

The reason Web 2.0 has taken off is that internet-enabled social networks are the digital equivalent of the connectome. Your level of mastery is determined by the social networks you are exposed to, including your friends, their friends and how often you connect. For this reason, I am increasingly convinced that Web 3.0 will be analogous to thin-slicing. Web 3.0 will be about combating the data overload in our lives by serving up data in ways that our minds can chew and swallow. Filtering, business algorithms, synthesis and video analytics will drive Web 3.0. And even if my analogy between the brain and the internet is incorrect, no reasonable person can deny that the information bombardment that most of us currently experience cannot continue to increase at current rate.

Maybe that will be the topic of our next coffee shop salon session.


2 comments on “The Connectome, Data Overload, and Web 3.0

  1. aviatrixkim
    April 27, 2012

    So glad to have found your excellent, exceedingly smart blog! Consider yourself followed.

  2. Andrew Green
    May 28, 2012

    I agree about the thin slicing analogy and where the web is going particularly in grad to social media. We are all overloaded with information and are continually devising me techniques for filtering through what we hope to most relevant. Eg using lists on twitter to see only posts from select people. The problem is that these techniques themselves are imperfect and become overwhelmed in the face of the information tsunami. All I want is the information that is relevant to me and the people i care about, the things I care about learning, the information that will help me co-create my next idea, etc.

    This is one of the problems with Facebook – it doesn’t empower me enough. They own the information and decide how to feed it to me as opposed to Google who help keep the Internet a free space of information for me to discover. Yes, Google has an algorithm that they have to keep proprietary, but they have to in order to keep the playing field level.

    Project yourself into the future 5 years and see a world where Facebook has been successful. A Facebook browser, facebook phone, etc will inherently mean that the information we exchange and interact with is transpiring through a monopolistic entity with the one purpose only. To collect and leverage our peronalia for the sake of it’s own growth and domination of shifting the free and open Internet offline to its own private party.

    Ok, that ended up as a bit of a digression , …but to tie it in. Let’s help the information we need to thin-slice going forward in web n.0 to stay free and clear of hegemonism and the shift of the intnernet to fall in to monopolistic hands.

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This entry was posted on April 25, 2012 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .


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