Sunday, July 30, 2006

Terminating and moving entrepreneurial content to

Since I am now a full-time employee of The Evil Empire and also looking to trim my expense budget a little, I have decided to terminate and moving it to Most of the content remains intact and my Entrepreneurial blog remains intact.

I don't expect to do any regular updating of the entrepreneurial web site, but I will on occasion post commentary on the blog.

For email, please switch from to

Thanks, and sorry for the inconvenience.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The future of plastics

There is a famous scene in the classic movie The Graduate in which Dustin Hoffman's character is offered one word of career advice: "plastics." The field of plastics remains huge and will continue to be a huge part of our lives for many decades to come. But... but... the big challenge facing scientists and engineers and planners is how to redesign plastics and production processes so that plastics and related materials are not so heavily dependent on non-renewable fossil resources, particularly petroleum (crude oil) and natural gas. Plastics have been made from renewable materials in the past, but it turned out that petrochemicals had a lot of benefits as a feedstock. That needs to change, regardless of whether your reasoning is based on high oil prices, a belief in "Peak Oil", or simply a concern that we are overly dependent on the volatile Middle East. How many of us give even a second thought to tossing a plastic fork or Styrofoam box or plastic wrapper or plastic bag in the trash? But the simple fact is that every such act only adds to the future demand for production of crude oil and natural gas.

Nanotechnology also has potential for the reengineering of renewable natural materials into replacements for the plastics that we use (and overuse) today.

So, if you know anybody looking for a bright career future or who has the potential to be the kind of brilliant inventor who could kickstart a new billion-dollar industry, recycle that old advice given to "Ben" in The Graduate: "Plastics", but expand it into "reengineering of renewable natural materials as feedstocks for production of plastics".

Oh, and if you're curious about the kind of processes which could be involved, I'd offer one word: algae.There are plenty of other avenues of pursuit, but bio-engineering of plastic materials has much promise.

And if you'd like to acquire the DVD for this classic film:

Note: I do get a tiny commission if you purchase by clicking on the Amazon link (either the picture ad or the movie name in my text.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tacit knowledge and tacitness as a dimension

One of the big challenges in knowledge management and training software agents to learn is the concept of tacit knowledge, which encompasses that which we "know" and which can influence our thinking, and behavior, but which is difficult or even impossible to conciously communicate to others. Rather than conceptualize it as a binary state, is or is not tacit, it may make a lot more sense to look at it as a dimension, a spectrum of difficulty of conceptualization and communication.

There are implicitly two aspects of tacit knowledge: our ability to conciously "think" about and contemplate knowledge, and our ability to convey or communicate that knowledge to others, including computational entities.

Here are some of the degrees or levels of tacitness that immediately occur to me:

  • What we in principle or theory could never "know" or communicate, possibly due to the "computational" limits of our brains and minds.
  • What is extremely difficult to "get our minds around" or articulate and then only with great effort or superior insight, but nonetheless can in theory be conceptualized and communicated.
  • What is relatively difficult to conceptualize or communicate.
  • What is relatively or moderately easy to "know" but much more difficult to communicate.
  • What we believe or are sure that we know, but have great difficulty communicating.
  • What we know, but can commincate only with individuals who "have been there" and already share a substantial amount of common knowldge or shared experience.
  • What can be communicated easily only between individuals with a common culture.
  • What can be communicated easily only within specific communities.
  • What requires a shared expertise.
  • What requires a shared world view.
  • What can be conceptualized and communicated within a genetic species.
  • What can be conceptualized and communicated with relative ease.
  • What other entities may already know and a few clues or cues are all that are needed to "convey" understanding.
  • What other entities already know and we simply need to reference.
  • What others already knew before we even told them, what we didn't need to tell them and should have known that fact
  • What we believe that others already know and believe need not be communicated.

To communicate with people, software agents (computational agents) will need to have capabilities for coping with these and other aspects of tacit knowledge. In fact, intelligent software agents will need these capabilities even to interact with other computational entities.

The eternal question is and will be: What do you know and how can I know that I know what you know? A deep understanding of tacit knowledge is essential to being able to answer that question.

-- Jack Krupansky