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Welcome to posthumanity

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdm1979uk/3607288494

We’re all getting an upgrade, whether we like it or not.

In a few years, every moment of our lives will be recorded, analyzed, and shared. We’ll take the sum of human knowledge for granted. We’ll wear tiny computers masquerading as fashion accessories. The merging of humans and technology is unavoidable, and the end result will be a new species able to hack its own cognition and edit its own biology.

This new species—call it Human 2.0—is the most important subject of the century. But it’s still hiding in academia and science fiction. We hope to change that. Read more »

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Welcome, Human 2.0.

We may not realize it, but the Internet has given us superhuman abilities. We acquire new capabilities each year, and technology lets us to do things that would have seemed impossible 30 years ago.

Here are ten superpowers that you and I have today:

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Internet devices

Canadians spend more time online than watching TV, according to new research. Not surprising, since most of the content we encounter is born online. Blogs, e-mails, tweets and YouTube videos wouldn’t exist without the Internet. You need a connection. And since it’s largely just computers and phones that have Internet connectivity, this often means digesting this digital content on devices that weren’t designed for consumption. Read more »

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Fossil frog, by kevinzim on Flickr

We’re rethinking many of the fundamentals on which our society is based: identity theft, privacy, employment background checks, freedom of speech, and the burden of proof. But the elder statesmen of the high courts aren’t keeping up.

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Hashtag searches (note that this may be a technical constraint of how Twitter parses emoticon characters)
Hashtags are the standard way of adding meaning and context to online content, providing explicit context and making it easier for computers to understand what’s being said. And emoticons are a de facto standard for expressing sentiment that work across cultures and languages. Why haven’t we combined the two?

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The perils of inadvertent sharing

Pipes, from MWichary on Flickr.There’s hidden plumbing behind our online lives. As we link our online accounts to one another, it’s easy to lose track of what’s connected to what. Social sites make it easy to inadvertently share content with an audience you didn’t know you had. Social sites that want to quickly generate the appearance of traffic mine all our online accounts in search of things to include in status updates.

Which can have some awkward consequences.
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rogersfail-wIn an effort to force users of its HTC Dream to do a software update that fixes a 911 call bug, Rogers has disconnected Internet from all its Android customers. Here’s the full text I just received on my phone:

Rogers/Fido Safety Message: URGENT Reminder 911 Calls HTC Dream software update: Mandatory software update is now available to help ensure 911 calls are completed from your phone. Please go immediately to rogers.com/dreamsoftwareupdate on your PC to download.

In order to help ensure 911 calls are completed internet access was temporarily disabled on your phone at 01/24/10 6:00AM EST. To reactivate internet service, please complete your software update immediately. Upon completion, internet access will be re enabled within 24 hours.

For users of Macintosh and Windows 7, please call 1- 888-764-3771(1-888-ROGERS1) for update instructions.

We apologize for the inconvenience but we prioritize customer safety above all.

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Twitter - Bird with Follow Me Sign

Back in mid-2008, Twitter was just another Web 2.0 application. Industry watchers were beginning to take notice of its million or so users and speculate if it might be the start of something bigger, but most people hadn’t heard of it or didn’t “get it”. Here at Bitcurrent we pondered the rise of microblogging and the scaling problems ahead, noting a few teething problems along the way.

Towards the end of 2008, people outside of tech circles began to take notice, especially when it became a key form of communication during the Mumbai terror attacks in November. In December it became clear that Twitter was not just another social site, but a protocol for a new form of communication. By the end of the year, people were exploring all sorts of new uses for Twitter, and the Twitter pantomime was born.

But 2009 was the year that Twitter really took the world by storm.
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The #uxmtl tweet stream behind the panelists

Backchannels are all the rage at tech events these days, connecting presenter and audience like never before. They allow audiences to get more value from a presentation by communicating with each other about it. And the audience can feed back to the presenter, which helps him stay on track and know that he is being understood.

But there’s a point where a backchannel goes beyond adding interactivity to an event and begins to undermine the event itself. In November, I witnessed this at the launch of UXMTL, a community for user experience design in Montreal.

Twitter has made setting up backchannels trivially easy — with or without the consent of conference organizers — since anyone can start a Twitter backchannel simply by using a hashtag. Unlike Google Moderator or Backnoise, no specialized software is needed. At UXMTL, the event organisers simply announced that audience members should use the hashtag #uxmtl on Twitter, and all tweets for that tag were displayed on a large screen behind the panelists, using Twitterfall. For me, this completely changed my experience of the event, both as an audience member and a backchannel contributor.

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