Foresight Update 31

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A publication of the Foresight Institute

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Inside Foresight

by Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson We have received two challenge-requests; one for your time, the other for your money:

$45K Challenge Grant Needs Matching Donations by January 31

One of our Senior Associates has stepped up to the plate again this year with a two-for-one $45,000 challenge grant to Foresight. This offer was originally set to expire on December 31, but because members will be hearing about it quite late, we have been able to negotiate an extension to the end of January.

This means that for every new dollar pledged by January 31, Foresight will receive two more, thereby tripling your donation.

Qualifying as matching funds are: new Senior Associate memberships, upgraded memberships, and lump sums of cash or publicly-traded stock in any amount. Giving appreciated stock can result in a greater tax benefit to the donor; Foresight has an account set up to enable direct transfers of stock.

If you have questions about the challenge grant, contact us at the office. To check up on the progress of the match, visit the Challenge Grant page on our web site.

User testing needed now on CritSuite software

Anyone with access to the World Wide Web can help by testing the CritSuite software. Just go to and start using it. CritSuite includes the three programs: CritLink, CritMap, and CritMail. The first and third should work with any browser; CritMap currently requires Netscape 4 or Internet Explorer 3.

The most exciting test to do is view your own pages through CritLink and especially CritMap. Remember that these only know about pages that have been visited through at least once, so to get a CritMap view of pages that point to your page, visit the pages that point to it. You can find these through the "Ask AltaVista for backlinks to this page" button at the bottom of your page as viewed though CritLink. Then briefly visit each one that CritMap doesn't yet display.

Keeping firmly in mind that the software you are testing is at the alpha or beta stage, please send comments—both compliments and bug reports—to

"Pioneers of Hypertext" praise new Web tools

We've already seen some initial positive reaction to the CritSuite work:

"The Crit toolset is another good step in Web evolution toward the complete feature set needed to truly revolutionize how we collectively develop and apply knowledge—in business and throughout society," said Doug Engelbart, a pioneer of hypertext as well as inventor of the computer mouse and graphical user interface.

Commenting from Japan, Ted Nelson, the visionary hypertext pioneer whose work inspired the Crit team, said, "At last we can annotate the Web, and high time."

Early reaction from the press is encouraging. Matt McKenzie, writing for the Seybold Report on Internet Publishing, clearly "gets" and likes the idea:

"CritSuite is an intriguing concept, offering a two-way exchange of information by linking comments and questions directly to a Web page, rather than by using separate discussion groups or chat areas. At this point, however, the system is better suited to controlled environments, such as intranets, than it is to the open Internet. Currently, multiple annotations to the same phrase or text segment result in multiple brackets; as a result, it's easy to see how annotations to controversial or popular pages could quickly become unmanageable. According to Foresight executive director Chris Peterson, CritSuite's developers are working on filtering options that will display annotations based on authorship, link type, popularity or other user-defined criteria. Peterson also said that Foresight expects third-party developers to modify the software (the source code is freely available at the Foresight Web site) to use various filtering schemes...Peterson said that Foresight is considering a partnership with a search engine to crawl the Web and deliberately index backlinks—a move that would speed up the process—although the institute hasn't yet worked out such a deal.

Foresight is known mostly for its vocal (and sometimes controversial) advocacy of nanotechnology projects. Given this background, Web page annotation tools may seem like a conceptual stretch, but Peterson says that the Institute's work in this area reflects a need for tools to aid discussions of complex policy and technology issues. And, in fact, it's easy to see how a set of tools like CritSuite could make discussions both more open and more valuable. The annotations provide a way not only to link comments to a document, but also to understand the context of a comment or question—a trait frequently missing in other discussion forums, where the document that sparked the discussion may not even be available to the participants. CritLink's backlink mapping also provides a useful way for readers and authors to understand who is linking to a given page, placing a document within the larger context of the Web.

For now, CritSuite is an intriguing set of tools that still has a long way to go before it's ready to live up to its promise. We suspect, however, that by placing the source code on the Web for free download, Foresight is seeding a community of developers who may take the software in some surprising—and potentially valuable—directions."

It's heartening to see Foresight's work on Web Enhancement being understood and appreciated at such an early stage. Soon, we hope to put these tools to the use for which they were designed: critical discussion of important issues in technology. We hope you'll join in.

Foresight Update 31 - Table of Contents


Foresight Unveils Backlink Mediator
To Provide "Other Half of the Web"

Before a late evening and enthusiastic crowd of several hundred media and technophiles, Foresight Institute unveiled its major contribution to more informed discussion of serious issues—a "backlink mediator" and related Web tools that allow readers of a Web document to "mark up" others' Web documents to agree, disagree, ask questions, or make a general comment. Readers can see, on one screen, who has linked to a given Web page, and whether they agree or disagree.

The newly unveiled CritSuite of Web tools include:

CritLink, which allows readers to add their own comment links anywhere in the text of any Web page. Created by Ka-Ping Yee, CritLink is the first means on the Web for people to make comments about articles posted on the Web that appear directly within the original article. Ping is an undergraduate student in Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

CritMap, which will display all of a Web document's links—both links made from the document by the original author and links made to the document by others—in a graphical display. Terry Stanley, a software engineer, wrote the code for this portion of the CritSuite tools.

CritMail, a new version of Hypermail which converts e-mail archives into Web documents. Intended for use with CritLink, it allows readers to see a quote as its author meant it to appear—in context. Its uses include the ability to migrate existing e-mail-based Usenet or Listserv discussions to HTML, so that an issues discussion can be carried on within. Peter McCluskey created CritMail.

The heart of the new tool set is CritLink. When a reader views any site through the window of a CritLink server, any word, phrase, or text block may be highlighted by diamond brackets of different colors that signify agreement, comment, disagreement, or a query. Clicking on the highlighted phrase allows a reader to view the full comment, which of course may itself contain many links to other comments.

As discussion becomes more complex through a CritSuite server, Stanley's CritMap comes into play, providing graceful curving line links between any page of HTML and all other pages that have coarse-grained (link to page) or fine-grained (link to specific phrase) hypertext links to it. CritMap allows the viewer to select any of the linked pages and then view all the pages with which it is linked.

The introductory event was hosted by Ed Niehaus, President of Niehaus Ryan Group, Inc., a leading Internet-focused public relations firm, whose clients recently have expanded to include Apple Computer. "This is one of the most exciting things ever to come down the Internet Highway," Ed told the audience. "CritSuite fills in the missing portion of the World Wide Web that was envisioned by the original creators of hypertext, but never before implemented."

"The beauty of this approach is that all the tools of CritSuite are available through any conventional Web browser. People thought for a long time that it wouldn't be possible to create back-linking on the World Wide Web without completely overhauling the Web's basic structure. Foresight Institute's brilliant team of software engineers has proven otherwise."

CritSuite Team

Crit Team: Foresight's dynamic team that created the CritSuite Web Enhancement tools include softwear engineer Terry Stanley and undergraduate student Ka-Ping Yee (front, left and right) and Peter McCluskey and Mark Miller, (rear, left and right). Terry created CritMap; Ping created CritLink; Peter created CritMail; Mark did the early architecture of CritLink and provides design advice and moral support for the ongoing CritSuite effort.

Foresight Update 31 - Table of Contents


Feynman Prizes Awarded

At each of its Conferences, Foresight Institute identifies and recognizes outstanding researchers in the field of molecular nanotechnology. As the field has progressed, the terms of the prize have evolved. This year, for the first time, separate prizes were awarded for experimental and theoretical work. Winners were selected on the basis of being judged the best thesis or refereed paper at the 1997 Conference.

The prize for experimental work was won by a team centered at IBM Research Division Zurich Research Laboratory, for work using scanning probe microscopes to manipulate molecules. The prize for theoretical work was won by a team at NASA Ames Research Center for work in computational nanotechnology. Each team received a $5,000 cash award to be divided among its members, as well as certificates of recognition for all awardees.

The researchers awarded the 1997 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology for Experimental Work were James Gimzewski and Reto Schlittler of IBM and Christian Joachim of CEMES-CNRS (France).

Members of the NASA Ames team that were awarded the 1997 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology for Theoretical Work are Charles Bauschlicher, Stephen Barnard, Creon Levit, Glenn Deardorff, Al Globus, Jie Han, Richard Jaffe, Alessandra Ricca, Marzio Rosi, Deepak Srivastava, and H. Thuemmel.

Judges for the 1997 Feynman Prize awards were Carl R. Feynman (son of Richard Feynman), computer scientist; William A. Goddard III, Chemistry and Applied Physics, Materials and Molecular Simulation Center, Caltech; Tracy Handel, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, UC Berkeley, Jan Hoh, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Neil Jacobstein, Chairman, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing and President, Teknowledge Corporation; Arthur Kantrowitz, Dartmouth College, Professor of Engineering, and Advisor, Foresight Institute; Marvin Minsky, MIT Media Lab and MIT AI Lab professor, and Advisor, Foresight Institute; Charles Musgrave, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University; Nadrian C. Seeman, New York University; Richard Smalley, Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University; and George Whitesides, Dept. of Chemistry, Harvard.

Previous winners of the Feynman Prize are Musgrave, for his theoretical work on a hydrogen abstraction tool for nanotechnology, and Seeman for his pioneering experimental work on the synthesis of 3-dimensional objects from DNA.

Ned Seeman and James Gimzewski
Feynman Prize Winners: James Gimzewski of the IBM Zurich Research Laboratory accepted the Feynman Prize for Experimental Work from Ned Seeman. Gimzewski's co-recipients, Reto Schlittler of IBM and Christian Joachim of CEMES-CNRS, were not present.
NASA Team prize winners
Feynman Prize Winners: Ned Seeman (second from left), winner of the Feynman Prize at the Fourth Foresight Conference, presented awards to Feynman Prize recipients at the Fifth Foresight Conference. Members of the NASA team awarded for Theoretical Work include, from left: Creon Levit, Charles Bauschlicher, Deepak Srivastava, Alessandra Ricca, Glenn Deardorff, Richard Jaffe, Stephen Barnard, and Al Globus. Recipients not pictured include Jie Han, Marzio Rosi, and H. Thuemmel.
Ralph Merkle and Marc Arnold
Ralph Merkle and Jim Von Ehr
Feynman Grand Prize Founders Honored: Conference Chair Ralph Merkle presented special recognition awards to Marc Arnold (top) and Jim Von Ehr (below) for their initiative and generosity in establishing the Feynman Grand Prize. Arnold conceived of the prize during the 1995 Foresight Conference. He and Von Ehr funded the prize with donations totaling $250,000.

Distinctions between the annually awarded Feynman Prizes and the Feynman Grand Prize

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From Foresight Update 31, originally published 15 December 1997.