Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Esther Dyson Again

Esther Dyson, daughter of famed mathematician Freeman Dyson, spoke at Lotus this afternoon. I met Esther about a year ago and was not impressed, so today I was giving her a second chance. This time, again, I found her inarticulate and vapid, but at least she had the good sense to leave 75% of her time to Q&A. Q&A is good.

Here is a summation of what she said [my comments in square brackets]:
- ICANN was bad. ENUM may be better, if it works, which it may not.
- Network solutions is bad because they make money of accidental URLs. But they do good things with accidental URLs.
- Before a company can do anything, it should ask everyone's permission first. To make sure it's right. [Did she learn nothing from ICANN?]
- All governments are not equal, and the US government is better than most.
- Activists are crazy.
- Email will become "sender pays" to stop spam. [Clearly someone forgot to tell people who pay money to spam my regular paper mailbox.]
- The next big thing involves computers knowing what you want through context. [Microsoft has lots of this in XP and it stinks. This only works if you have people researching the context and then building narrower apps. But Esther puts her faith in software, not informed design. A mistake, I think.]
- The semantic web will be big. It's like a registry of concepts. [Clearly I don't know what's been going in in AI between 1998-2003, or Esther does not know what's been going on in AI since 1960-1998. Language is associative, not axiomatic. Computers are axiomatic. They will be bad at language. To Esther's credit, she did not push "natural language interfaces" as being a solution to anything, which it's not.]

Her latest issue of Release 1.0 is a) not written by her and b) talks about weblogs. *Yawn* Weblogs are so 2000.


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