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Club of Amsterdam Journal, August 2004, Issue 30

Shaping Your Future in
the Knowledge Society

The Club of Amsterdam Journal appears 2 x per month.
You can find the online version at:
August 2004, Issue 30
the future of

Monday, September 27
Europe lays out plan for healthcare IT

Quantum trick may multiply CD capacity
European Union of Science Journalists' Associations

Friends of the Commons

Institute of Development Studies

Menlo Park Europe


  .Jonathan Marks about Media & Entertainment

Jonathan Marks
Director, Critical Distance BV

Club of Amsterdam: Jonathan, you've just been to conferences in Singapore, Malaysia, the UK and USA (San Jose). How does the mood in the Media and Entertainment world compare with the Netherlands?
Jonathan Marks: I have to say that Silicon Valley and Silicon Fen (around Cambridge in the UK) are on a lift again. The shake-outs have happened. Actually, many of the ideas coming to market now in the consumer IT and entertainment world are not new. Page through Wired Magazine of 1998/1999 and you'll find many pieces of "vapourware" being beta tested in the pages of the magazine and in the minds of movers and shakers of Silicon Valley. The difference now is that the ideas that are left are based on a real need - real problems that could be solved with better technologicial solutions - not technogadgets looking for a problem to latch on to.

While wandering around Silicon Valley in June 04, I was struck by the great brand that Amsterdam has in California. Both are "west coast" cities, and many of the more creative entrepreneurs spent some time in Amsterdam doing innovative projects with the "dot-coms". Then came the collapse and they went home in search of work. Now that Silicon Valley is doing better, the people I talked to were curious as to whether the same is true in Silicon Polder. "Not yet" I have to say. Amsterdam, the brand, has a short window of opportunity to attract new "knowledge" economy business, before it heads for other EU countries, either with a cheaper labour force (see Baltic States) or Ireland, with heavy financial incentives to set up in Dublin.

So what is wrong?
Jonathan Marks: May be things still have to get worse before they get better. Then a few sparks will fly and some risk takers will emerge out of the woodwork. That means some real "local" heros. In Silicon Valley, if some VP from Sun Systems or Apple gets into the back of the cab, the driver is proud to be driving around a celebrity. That sort of 'Let's Do it" spirit seems to have gone away from Amsterdam for the time being. I don't think the offices around the Arena are going to fill up until that spark gets going again. I find that spark is also running wild in Singapore and Korea at the moment.

Anything new on the horizon in terms of home entertainment?

Jonathan Marks: End of 2004 is going to be interesting. A whole wave of new games are coming and remember the games business is now bigger than Hollywood. The new versions of famous titles are comissioning musicians like Sting to write soundtracks for their adventures. Two things have dramatically dropped in price - the cost of storage - and processing power. The professionals are stacking 3000-4000 computers in banks so they can render animation with incredibly complex and realistic software. Just look at the dramatic improvement in animation between Shrek 1 and 2. Still, each frame of Shrek 2, takes between 2-4 hours to render because of all the individual action (i.e. programs) running to create effects. The US and Asia are upgrading their pictures from NTSC to High Definition, and the LCD/Plasma screens are coming down in price to make systems more affordable. Europe is not in the HD grip as yet, basically because a PAL TV produces a pretty good picture already.

I think major TV stations that want to stay in business are realising they need to get on-demand access to their content libraries. The BBC has been amazed at the popularity of its Radio Player and is working on a scheme to allow the public to stream any show broadcast either 7 days in advance or behind today's date (don't try this with news). Since UK residents pay a licence fee, be prepared to wait a long while before the on-demand TV services work outside the UK. I think the Home Media versions of PCs that launch later this year will interest those people who want to do more than passively watch TV. It seems crazy that we have one set of applications in the living room and another on the PC. Convergence is happening there, and I hope attention is being paid to the user interfaces. Remember if the person in Dixons can't demo the concept in 30 seconds, it is way over the head of the public. Geeks will buy anything, but there are not enough techn-collectors to save concepts like the Tablet PC or the Pocket E-Reader. Even famous names are having to re-think - take Tivo for instance. Five years after we're promised "TV Anytime, with the easy of web surfing", Tivo has still only 1.6 million subscribers ! Personally, I think TIvo is screwed up in its own little marketing vortex and the concept is ripe for someone else to do a much better job. In the UK, that may be Sky, in the US, my money is on Rio who bought Replay, Tivo's rival.

On August 24th we will meet in a great place (fingers crossed for fine weather - the view is great so bring a camera) and we'll also take a realistic view at what the future may have in store for European consumers in general and Dutch consumers in particular.



  .about the future of Media & Entertainment

The demoscene is a worldwide non-commercial network of creative minds involved in the making of so called 'demos'. Demos are computer generated music clips that show what kind of graphic and sound effects can really be done by using high-end computer hardware to its full potential.

Demo-making is teamwork. As demos are rather complex any helping hand is welcome. Each scener provides the team with different skills. Graphicians and musicians create suitable pieces of art, the programmers fit all the parts together in an extensive amount of detail work to finally make it an executable program: the demo.

The sceners don't necessarily have to physically meet each other at all during the whole process. Usually they meet in chatrooms and share their latest work over the internet. Most sceners live in Europe but you can find them almost everywhere in the world.


Dirac - BBC Begins Open-Source Streaming Challenge
The BBC is quietly preparing a challenge to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and other companies jostling to reap revenues from video streams. It is developing code-decode (codec) software called Dirac in an open-source project aimed at providing a royalty-free way to distribute video.

Tim Borer, manager of the Dirac project at the BBC's Kingswood Warren R&D lab, pointed out: "Coding standards for video were always free and open. We have been broadcasting PAL TV in this country for decades. The standard has been available for anyone to use... If the BBC had to pay per hour of coding in PAL we would be in trouble."

.News about the Future

Europe's water: An indicator-based assessment
This report assesses the quality and quantity of Europe's water. Its geographical scope is the European Union, EFTA and EU accession and candidate countries. Four water issues are assessed: ecological quality, eutrophication and organic pollution of water, hazardous substances and water quantity. This is done on the basis of 57 indicators selected for their representativeness and relevance.

Tim Harper on NanoWater
NanoWater is a very simple idea that grew out of a meeting with Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres at the World NanoEconomic Congress in Washington DC last year. He made the only speech I have ever seen that got a standing ovation at a nanotech conference, with the simple message that perhaps technology could do something positive. We followed this up with a visit to Israel just before Christmas last year to understand at first-hand the problems facing countries with scarce water resources.

I agree that food and shelter are important global issues, as are energy and disease. Although water issues affect most of the world's population, I wouldn't claim that water is any more important or urgent than any of the other issues. However, there are two compelling reasons for the nanowater initiative.


.Recommended Book

The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development (Wbi Development Studies)
by World Bank Institute

The stellar list of contributors to this book includes Nobel Prize winner and Columbia University Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Irrational Exuberance author Robert Shiller, and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The theme on which they are all passionate is the importance of a free and independent press.

As World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn points out in the foreword to this book, "a free press is not a luxury. It is at the core of equitable development." Contributors to this volume explore the role of the media as a watchdog of government and the corporate sector, the mediaís power to influence markets, its usefulness as a transmitter of new ideas and information, and its ability to give a voice to the poor and disenfranchised. They also tackle the potential harm an unethical, propagandistic, or irresponsible press can cause and the impact of insult laws and other policies that hamper the operation of a free press.

Several contributors describe the challenges faced by the media in specific countries, including the former Soviet Union, Thailand, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Zimbabwe - these are fascinating case studies and vivid illustrations of the mediaís potential as a catalyst for change and growth.

Advance Praise for The Right to Tell: "Iíve been waiting for ten years for someone to put together a book like this. The Right To Tell finally makes the case linking open media with economic growth and development. Each article in this collection is like a building block in a public policy brief that places open media at the forefront of development strategy. It follows Amartya Senís groundbreaking Development As Freedom with compelling arguments that independent media are essential to social development and economic growth. Open media translates into transparency and government accountability, less corruption, participatory democracy, civil society and, yes, greater income. This book is a must read for policymakers who are only now waking up to the immense power of open media." - David Hoffman, President, Internews Network

.EuropeanTRIZ Association

European TRIZ Association (ETRIA)
TRIZ (the internationally used Russian acronym, proposed by TRIZ-creator Genrich S. Altshuller, 15.10.26-24.09.98) is regarded today as the most comprehensive, systematically organized invention knowledge and creative thinking methodology known.

The European TRIZ Association (ETRIA) intends to function as a connecting link between industrial companies, institutions, educational organizations and individuals concerned with conceptual questions pertaining to organization and processing of innovation knowledge.

TRIZ is considered as a cross-disciplinary, generic methodology, but it has not previously been presented in terms of logic or any other formal knowledge representation. Most of the concepts introduced in TRIZ are fuzzy, and most of the techniques are still heuristic and only partially formalized. For further development and conceptual re-organization of the TRIZ knowledge base, ETRIA shall involve and collaborate with TRIZ experts and professionals from the fields of logic, organization science, informatics and linguistics.

The ETRIA has been set up to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Promotion of research and development on organization of innovation knowledge in general and particular fields by integrating conceptual approaches to classification developed by artificial intelligence (AI) and knowledge management communities;
  • International observation, analysis, evaluation and reporting of progress in these directions;
  • Promotion on an international level of the exchange of information and experience of scientists and practitioners in TRIZ, of universities and other educational organizations;
  • Development of TRIZ through contributions from dedicated experts and specialists in particular areas of expertise. - Travel guide to Amsterdam features tourist information and tips, sights, entertainment, transport, map to print, and free pictures of Amsterdam.

.Club of Amsterdam Upcoming Events
.Special Events

August 24, 2004

.Media & Technology @ ANMI
.September 27, 2004 .NanoWater

.January 26-28, 2005

.Summit for the Future

.Club of Amsterdam Season 2004/2005

October 27, 2004

.the future of ICT

.November 30, 2004

.the future of Developing Countries
.February 23, 2005 .the future of the Service Industry
.March 30, 2005 .the future of Water
.April 27, 2005 .the future of Branding
.June 1, 2005 .the future of Robotics
.June 29, 2005 .the future of Philosophy


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