Inventing the Future

Alan Kay once said that “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”. It is always nice to see efforts to invent the future. Some are small with near term potential and some are large ambitious once. Here are just a couple, I came across today in a mail I received from ACM TechNews.

Intel’s Challenge

“We Challenge You: A Call to Action on Global Issues

Intel’s INSPIRE•EMPOWER Challenge is calling for the best technology solutions to address four areas of global need – education, healthcare, economic development, and the environment. The contest will award seed funding of $100,000 USD to one winner in each category. The Challenge is designed to inspire developers, individuals, and organizations to innovate and empower them to deliver new ways to apply technology to these issues. The INSPIRE•EMPOWER Challenge advances the commitment of the Intel World Ahead Program – to connect people to a world of opportunity.”

You can find out more about Intel’s challenge here.

Expeditions in Computing

This initiative from NSF is a more ambitious one.

The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) has established four new Expeditions in Computing. Each of these $10 million grants will allow teams of researchers and educators to pursue far-reaching research agendas that promise significant advances in the computing frontier and great benefit to society.

“We created the Expeditions program to encourage the research community to send us their brightest and boldest ideas,” said Jeannette Wing, NSF’s assistant director for CISE. “We received an overwhelming response, and I’m delighted with the results of our first annual competition. The four Expeditions together push both the depth and breadth of our field: pursuing longstanding scientific questions of computing, creating a new field of computational sustainability, experimenting with novel technologies for secure, ubiquitous computing and communications of the future, and exploring what we even think of as computing.”

It covers four broad areas.

  1. Understand, Cope with, and Benefit From Intractability
  2. Computational Sustainability: Computational Methods for a Sustainable Environment, Economy, and Society
  3. Open Programmable Mobile Internet 2020 project
  4. Molecular Programming Project

CISE anticipates hosting an Expeditions competition annually, with three new awards anticipated each year. The deadline for preproposal submission to the second annual Expeditions competition is September 10, 2008.

Do you know of any other initiatives of similar nature around the world. Please add a comment with a link.

StratML – Update

Strategy Markup Language (StratML) is an XML vocabulary and schema for strategic plans. It was originally intended to be used by US government. Its scope is now expanded. According to this updated presentation:

The vision is to establish StratML as an international (ISO) voluntary consensus standard for potential use, by all organizations worldwide.

At a high level, it looks as if the schema can be adopted for use in any large organization to track initiatives.


From StratML web site, the broad goals of StratML are to:

  • Facilitate the sharing, referencing, indexing, discovery, linking, reuse, and analyses of the elements of strategic plans, including goal and objective statements as well as the names and descriptions of stakeholder groups and any other content commonly included in strategic plans.
  • Enable the concept of “strategic alignment” to be realized in literal linkages among goal and objective statements and all other records created by organizations in the routine course of their business processes.
  • Facilitate the discovery of potential performance partners who share common goals and objectives and/or either produce inputs needed or require outputs produced by the organization compiling the strategic plan.
  • Facilitate stakeholder feedback on strategic goals and objectives.
  • Facilitate updating and maintenance of discrete elements of strategic plans without requiring review and approval of the entire plan through bureaucratic channels, thereby helping to make the strategic planning process more agile and responsive to stakeholder feedback and changing circumstances, thus helping to overcome the tendency of strategic plans to become outdated “shelfware”.
  • Reduce the needless time, effort, inconsistencies, and delays associated with maintaining data redundantly in myriad “stovepipe” systems rather than referencing the authoritative sources.
  • Enable agencies to comply with the provisions of subsections 202(b)(4) & (5) and 207(d) of the eGov Act, which respectively require agencies to:
    • Work together to link their performance goals to key groups, including citizens, businesses, and other governments, as well as internal Federal Government operations; and
    • Adopt open standards (e.g., StratML) enabling the organization and categorization of Government information in a way that is searchable electronically and interoperably across agencies.

Can we use something like StratML? You bet.

Let us take it one step further. If each project or initiative has a set of goals and objectives, and if we can use commmon vocabulary to articulate them, we may be getting off to a great start. Supplement this with a similar vocabulary for projects (let us call it ProjectML) which can include deliverables and interfaces (where applicable) and libraries (produced), we may even have some cool technology to identify reuse or cross-pollinate. It does not have to be XML, but using XML has the advantage of taking this format and sharing it with others and refining it.

You can find more information on StartML here. There is a link to the presentation here.