Thursday, December 08, 2005

Downloading the Web in an Afternoon

That's the equivalent of what Caltech recently accomplished.

Bandwidth is a measure of how much data can be sent across a network in a set amount of time. It's what you experience online when waiting for a web page to load.

But recently, Caltech reached a stunning milestone in how fast data can be sent, transferring 475 terabytes of data in 24 hours. That's fast enough to download the entire Web as indexed by Google in an afternoon. (Cool idea too. Can you imagine having your own personal cache of the web, updated every couple of hours in the background while you surf with no page load waits?)

OK, for math heads, here's the figures I used rounded to the nearest sanest numbers:

475 terabytes (the amount of data transferred in 1 day by Caltech), divided by 156 terabytes (the size of Google's web) = (roughly) 3.

More math? OK here is how I determined Google's size:

I did a Google search with my preferences set to return 100 pages. I searched for everything using *.* (Note: This search query doesn't work anymore. Use a creative seach of your own with common words like "home" or "welcome").
From those 100 hits, I added up the size of each page for a total of:
1721 k
and then divided that by 100 to get the average size of each page.
That gave me an average of 17 K per page
Multiply that by the number of pages on Google (9,180,000,000)
and that gives 156,060,000,000,000 Bytes or 156 terabytes.

How to Visualize Data

Did you know that 1 CD can hold the entire Human genome? That a Gigabyte of text printed out would fill the bed of a pickup truck with paper? That it takes 20,000 trees to print out 400 Gigabytes on paper? That 100 Terabytes is a high-side guess of Human brain storage space, slightly less than one days Web Page views from Google in 2009.

I've been collecting these data bits for a couple of years now, finding gems and doing my best math to see if they fall in line with everything else. It's pretty close. Close enough to give you some useful comparisons.

Bits


2 bits: any 2 choice decision. Yes/No Run/Stop...
3 bits: A color pixel. Only 3 bits are needed to represent any colour. Red, Blue and Green, from which all other colors are derived.
8 bits: 1 byte

Bytes


1 byte: Any character on your computer keyboard (not including your cat).
5 bytes: The average English word

Kilobyte


1,024 bytes often rounded to 1,000 bytes
1 Kilobyte: A joke or a couple of paragraphs
2 Kilobytes: Typewritten page
3.2 Kilobytes: The amount of data in the H1N1 Swine Flu virus
3.5 Kilobytes: The size of the first web page
5 Kilobytes: A Desktop Icon
10 Kilobytes: A page out of an encyclopedia
17 Kilobytes: The size of an average Web Page
50 Kilobytes: A (roughly) 4 by 6 inch image
100 Kilobytes: A low-resolution photograph
750 kilobytes: The file size necessary to categorize the entire range of human experience and interest. (11 categories and about 450 unique sub-categories) as indicated by the Yahoo! directory on November 3rd 2007. (I wrote a small program to fetch all the headings and categories, save it to a text file, then view the text file size.)

Megabyte


1,048,576 bytes,
1 Megabyte: Small novel, 3-1/2 inch diskette
2 Megabytes: 12 Megapixel Digital Photo, high resolution
3 Megabytes: The average mp3 song. (Rough rule of thumb: an mp3 plays about 1 megabyte per minute.)
4 Megabytes: A Non illustrated King James Bible. I downloaded a text version from Project Gutenberg and viewed the file size).
5 Megabytes: 1 minute of a YouTube High Quality video.
10 Megabytes: (Roughly) 1 minute MPEG movie.
20 Megabytes: Typical hard drive in the first desktop PCs
100 Megabytes: Roughly the text info contained in 1 meter (3 feet) of bookshelf
750 Megabytes: 1 CD. The Human genome (props to Max for his comment below)

Gigabyte


1,073,741,824 bytes,
1 Gigabyte: The bed of a pickup truck filled with paper.
7 Gigabytes: 1 DVD
10 Gigabytes: A 1 inch stack of CD's
28 Gigabytes: Tweets Per Day on Twitter as of Jan 1, 2011
30 Gigabytes: From My Life In A Terabyte - Roughly the entire collection of Gordon Bell's Gordon Bell's articles, books, correspondence (letters and email), CD's, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings by 2003.
400 Gigabytes: 20,000 trees made into paper and printed.
500 Gigabytes: 100 DVD Movies

Terabyte


1 Terabyte: 1000 gigabytes
An 8 foot stack of CD's or about 150 DVD's. It would hold all 350 episodes of The Simpsons or all 238 episodes of Friends. About 2 years non stop MP3s. About 50,000 trees made into paper would be needed to print out a Terabyte of data. 250 million pages printed both sides, over 10 miles high. Roughly 250,000 MP3s (2 years non-stop listening). About 2 weeks of non-stop DVD movies. 500,000 digital camera pictures.
4 Terabytes: The YouTube record of U.S. user names and IP addresses including every record of every video watched by them as of 2008.
10 Terabytes: Enough to store everything you look at for a year, and could include a heart monitor, personal GPS, everything you type and every move of your mouse. From Charlie's Diary Shaping the Future.
45 Terabytes: All the videos on YouTube as of Aug 2006
100 Terabytes: High guess of Human brain storage space. The monthly growth of The Internet Archive in 2009. From this Google search
122 Terabytes: The size of one days Web Page views from Google in 2009 (7.2 Billion daily page views) X 17 Kilobytes (the size of the average web page).
150 Terabytes: Estimated size of all Web pages indexed by Google on Dec 8th 2005 (not including databases or video). (See this article for the figures I used)

Petabyte


1 Petabyte: 1 thousand Terabytes. Storage at this level signals the dawn of a new era with powerful implications to the sciences and Artificial Intelligence.
About 100 years of television. The amount of data storage space the Internet Archive had in 2004.
Roughly the amount of new video added to youTube every day in 2007
A stack of CD's 3 kilometers high
2 Petabytes: The amount of data Google processed every day in 2008
3.5 Petabytes: 2007 Estimated capacity of Google's Data centers in a box.
4 Petabytes: Estimated amount of Internet data stored in RAM by Google in 2006.
4.5 Petabytes: The capacity of The Internet Archive as of 2009. From this Google search
15 Petabytes: The amount of data the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) generates per year as of 2008.
20 Petabytes: Google daily total workload in January 2008. The storage capacity of all hard drives produced in 1995.
60 Petabytes: Estimated total size of Flickr photos by December 2011
200 Petabytes: The estimated amount of data contained within the Googleplex in 2006.

Exabyte


1000 Petabytes.
2.2 Exabytes: According to Charles Stross, all data recorded by our species in 2003
246 Exabytes: Total storage of the Internet in 2006.

Zettabyte


1000 Exabytes
1.8 Zettabytes: Estimated amount of total electronic data in existence by 2011

Yottabyte


1000 Zetabytes.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Technology, Computers and Innovation: Why Everything is Speeding Up

Our grandparents incredulously shook their heads at the moon landing, microwave ovens, nuclear bombs and computers. Theirs was the first generation to actually feel technology speed up. Today, crude replicators, new forms of Intelligence, immortality and the very reigns of evolution are within our grasp. Why IS everything speeding up?

Innovation MEANS Acceleration

Ideas trigger ideas. Step into any research lab, and you'd probably interrupt someone methodically confirming or disproving some theory. Boiling enormous amounts of information down to one bit of data. Either yes or no.

But once that tiny single grain of new truth is harvested, new knowledge, questions and ideas automatically spring forth. There’s suddenly a whole other set of things you can do. This is the classic feedback loop of discovery.

Time saving innovations create another self reinforcing loop. Think of all the things we use to save time. Our dishwashers, cars and computers free us from one set of demands but give birth to new urgencies. Our cars make it possible to live further from work. So we commute for an hour. Dishwashers make it possible to catch up on the Email we receive from all of those people around the world we could never have met any other way. So time saving solutions also incrementally speed up the pace of life. More events get crammed into shorter periods of time. Including world changing events.

As we shall see, these simple feedback loops have been speeding up for thousands of years. And we have arrived upon the scene in time to witness leisurely progress become super accelerated.

It's Been A Long Time Coming

"We didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the world's been turning." Billy Joel
The world seemed as still as stone for thousands of years and technology moved as slow as amber. Take a 100,000 year walk back with me. Notice ancient hands transform logs into levers, wheels and axles. Watch these three simple innovations morph into a wheelbarrow.

Flash forward as wheelbarrows transform into wagons going 2 miles per hour, chariots at 20 mph, cars at 100 mph, trains at 300 mph, planes at 2000 mph, rockets at 4000 mph, spacecraft at 18000 mph... Innovations beget ever more and powerful innovations because each advancement illuminates a new set of still greater possibilities.

Why Our World Is Noticeably Speeding Up

It was only last century that our grandparents incredulously shook their heads at the moon landing, microwave ovens that heated only the food and not the container, nuclear bombs and computers. Theirs was the first generation to actually feel technology speed up. A mere half generation later, crude replicators, new forms of Intelligence, immortality and the very reigns of evolution are suddenly within our grasp.

Computers Changed Everything

The BIG invention was computers because they are embedded with memory, logic and calculating power. Shreds of human intelligence. Things sped up dramatically since the computer (including computers) because each generation of computer chip could be harnessed to propagate the next. Now all of our world is speeding up in lockstep with the acceleration of computing.

Centuries ago the pool of innovations we sipped from was small and local. But on the Internet, our global ocean of knowledge and a worldwide pool of innovators are brought together.

Today's automobiles spring both from inventions, knowledge and processes as far back as fire and the wheel as they do from networked minds blanketing the globe.

Is There An End In Sight?

Most of tomorrow's inventions, from new drugs, to enhancing our abilities with embedded computing, to the progress we make with Artificial Intelligence, will be about coping with the acceleration. As a species, we CAN do more than survive. We could thrive and discover ourselves in ways we now believe impossible. But, as far as I can see, the acceleration will eventually go far beyond us. Soon AI will be as good at the same intelligence feedback loop we've been using since the evolution of our opposable thumbs - and accelerating.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why You Should Know About The Digital Revolution

The computer revolution, the information revolution. You hear talk within the media about some revolution that is supposed to change everything.

Yes, there is a revolution so profound in it's implication, so sweeping in it's scope, and eventually so pervasive in it's effects, that it will change everything, but it is neither of these.

The two big revolutions we have seen so far are the Agricultural revolution which began about 3000 years ago, and the Industrial revolution which began about 300 years ago. I am convinced that we are simply in the heyday of the Industrial revolution, the final strokes of a mighty brush, which because of the Industrial revolution's drive to automate, simply paints faster and faster.

The acceleration of change we are witnessing is the logical outcome of the drive to automate causing history to unfold faster and faster.

Computers are simply machines which automate the processing of information. Because the most important underpinnings of our present world rely so heavily on information, (Economy, Government, Commerce, Business, Education Military, Media etc.), and because computers do that so quickly, all of these systems are speeding up, with change being the only constant. Therefore, these things do not represent something new, so much as the same unfolding process accelerating.

But the true revolution, the one that will change everything, the one with all of the wild cards, is just beginning. It is the digital revolution. At it's very core it IS new. It's about translating atoms into bits of data. Let's talk about that, and why you should know about it.

Shakespeare once spoke of a "tide in the affairs of men" and how valuable it is to recognize it early.

When you consider all of the things that you do which are repetitive, someone, somewhere is working on automating that process.

However, the digital revolution (the translation of real world experiences into bits or data) represents a still deeper shift in the "tide". That is because everything that can be digitized is being digitized. And everything can potentially be digitized. Sounds, images, movement, thought processes, information, knowledge, intelligence... In other words, everything that can be translated to data will eventually be data. Boring you say?

Well consider that the meaning of data has barely begun to dawn on us. Everything we sense is converted to data by our brain. It's called "sensory data". What we now call virtual reality is a vague shadow of what is to come. By then, our world will have completely shifted from the focus on atoms to bits of data.

Once things become digitized, their cost goes into free fall while rapidly accelerating in power and reach. Digital Cell phones loaded with digital cameras communicating across digital networks are leaching the mass from media spawning a new viable grass roots media. Notice how quickly digital devices; computers, phones and iPods spread and evolve. Or how the digitization of entertainment through MP3s or video on DVD have so quickly outstripped the recording and movie industries ability to stop it.

Meanwhile, look around at what physical things become vaporized due to the thrust of digitization: Paper, tape cassettes, photo development processes may quickly spring to mind.

Some cars have no physical link between the accelerator pedal and the engine. When you depress the accelerator, you are actually sending a digital signal to a computer. The pedal might as well be a mouse.

What about farm equipment and the land upon which it tills? Bio-engineering has already produced oranges that grow in vats. An entire "orange grove" sits inside a room, without trees, branches, leaves or dirt. What the digital revolution will do with Real Estate, it can do with practically anything else.

Look at all of the tasks that are repetitive where you work. These are the most fruitful to begin considering in a new light. The sheer amount of opportunities can be blinding at first glance, so start with customer service tasks. Specifically communication needs. Are there repetitive information requests that would better serve these people if they were automated? What about information that WOULD be very valuable, but because of distribution or production costs (printing etc.) it has never been fully implemented?

Now ask yourself how technology could make obsolete some of your equipment, products and or services. If it is conceivable to you, it is achievable. Pay attention to news releases about these areas. The best way I know of doing that right now is by using RSS. Have a robot scan hundreds of your favorite Websites and automatically deliver new information rather than surf for it.

(This is an excellent example of innovative people re-engineering the Web using these principles.)

So, if I have offered you any perspective at all, it is the direction in which to begin casting your flashlight.

For the best description of this emerging digital world, read "Being Digital" by Nicholas Negroponte. Lucid, easy to read and understand, it is at the top of my recommended list.

Warm regards,

Ted

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Dangerous Convergence of Technology and Warfare

Technology decentralizes power; military, political, economic, media, energy... all of it. Because once a medium becomes digitized, it must move with the laws of networked information. Distributed, connected, decentralized, democratized, Peer-to-peer ... Eventually grass roots. From the hands of the few to the masses.

The Internet is possible because of the computerized digitization of text, audio and video. The fight over music copyrights emerges from the digitization of audio. Pirated Hollywood movies can arrive online within hours of release because of the digitization of video.

The same pattern is also occurring within manufacturing which will soon give birth to desktop fabrication and crude (at first) replicators. A. I. will emerge as we get far enough down the road in digitizing intelligence. And this ongoing digitization of everything allows ever smaller groups to wage increasingly potent warfare.

This nexus of technology and warfare are probably the biggest challenge we face as a species. But the increasing acceleration and magnitude of political violence is also driving technological solutions to it. Ultimately the solution to global violence will be distributed as well, meaning we, the masses will somehow become the solution.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Acceleration of Global Violence

There is an ugly economy to violence. It's cheaper to destroy than build, and to take by force than negotiate. And within every segment of the political spectrum there are those who would employ violence to achieve their ends.

Todays coordinated attacks from stateless groups around the globe cost orders of magnitude less than the burdens of rebuilding and forever heightened security.

Present political stability depends on managing wholesale violence with the threat or exercise of still greater violence. Otherwise the political structure dissolves.

The Decentralization of Global Violence

Technology makes increasingly powerful weapons cheaper and gives rise to new ways and means of destruction. And so small innovative groups become capable of increasingly cheap, massive, raw violence. In Madrid, cheap cellphones became sophisticated detonators. They could have been triggered by Email, remotely and anonymously, from anywhere in the world.

Where Is This Taking Us?

Technology democratizes power of every kind; military, political, economic, media, energy production; all of it. Centralized power becomes distributed from the hands of the few to the masses.

I do see the day when politics reflects the conscience of mothers, the security of children and all the things communities really want in order to thrive and grow functionally. There isn't much time though. Weapons of mass destruction are becoming open source, distributed and cheap.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Insights Into The New "Tech Bloom"

Michael Meiser has incredibly lucid insights into the new "Tech Bloom". The rise of tagging and open source editing such as Wikis, Flickr point to the democratization of media. I've summarized some of his ideas below.

~~~~~~~
Social is the word.

Welcome to the latest tech bloom, the next evolution, Web 2.0.x. We're soon to see what happens when democratization goes beyond Email and Blogs and Wikis to the rest of the media. The hallmark of this next evolution will be democratized media and Web 2.x starts with audio and video.

It's time to break mass communications out of the box and see what next happens when all the world has equal access. What happens when all the world has access to a project manager? How about an enterprise development manager? The best encyclopedias? The coolest, latest greatest tools? What happens when "amateurs" have access? ...they build even cooler shit.

The future of web based tools is in ubiquitous social collaboration and communication. The value is in their ubiquity. There is no purpose in having a word processor online or for that matter a to do list... unless.... unless it can go anywhere and do anything and collaborate with anyone. That is to say, unless it can go social.

~~~~~~~

This is big.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Computers Will Become Vastly Simpler To Use

Marshall Brain is an ongoing source of great, well articulated ideas.

I really like his "as simple as possible but no simpler" writing style. His way of removing the complexity and jargon while retaining the essence is why I always look forward to articles like this in which he points to a near future scenario in which our increasingly powerful computers become vastly simpler to use.

It's also great to see some fresh light on this subject.

I recall Eric Schmidt talked about the hollowing out of the computer in a similar manner quite a while back. Bob Metcalfe expanded on the concept in his article "The Coming Software Shift".

As our applications inevitably migrate from our computers to the network, the network literally becomes the computer.

This new supercomputer gets faster as bandwidth increases. A completely optical network means bandwidth would approach the speed of light. My computer could use your hardware as seamlessly as mine.

Meanwhile Ray Kurzweils predictions of $1000 of hardware with the processing power of a human brain arising within our lifetimes is also quite conceivable.

These factors, combined with Metcalfe's Law (The power of the network increases exponentially by the number of computers connected to it) all point to an emergent, distributed, networked, increasingly "intelligent" global nervous system.

And we've got front row seats :)

Stay well,

Ted

Friday, June 17, 2005

When Politics Is Driven From The Bottom Up

As information technology evolves, new ways of spreading information spontaneously emerge.

Inevitably, "mass media" becomes decentralized meaning our news about things we are interested in increasingly comes from the people we are connected to. Centralized media, in order to survive, will need to serve that end.

Email, web, texting, messaging, phone, fax, autoresponders, phone cams ... Evolving according to their utility (how useful they are) and how they reduce transaction costs (how much simpler, cheaper, more effective they are), existing technologies become the technology base from which new technologies emerge, in an ever widening spiral of growth.

Overheard On A Streetcorner: "Something Me" by Cameron Marlow

"While walking home from work the other day I passed a group of guys emerging from a pizza joint. After a few handshakes and goodbyes they parted ways and made arrangements for their next meeting. And then one of them yelled across the street, "something me on Thursday." His friend looked a little confused, but I knew exactly what he was talking about. He added, "IM, call, email... I don't care."

So as new adopted communications technologies become as saturated as Email, we can expect grass roots political force to grow.

What interests me is the potential untapped power of the connected masses. The computational power of all connected home desktops in North America is far greater than the most powerful supercomputer. Even Google, which has an estimated computational capacity surpassing the most powerful supercomputer and approaching that of the human brain.

Estimates are that
the Human brain computes somewhere between 100 TERAflops and 1000 Teraflops
,
and Google performs somwhere between 100 and 300 teraflops.

P.S. Since doing that bit of research, every time Google checks my spelling and responds with "did you mean..." the hair stands on the back of my neck :)

Another example:
I don't know how current the Seti@home FAQ is, but they claim 15 TeraFLOPs at a cost of $500K and they are comparing it with IBM's ASCI White, rated at 12 TeraFLOPS with a cost of $110 million.

This potential computational power foreshadows the coming networked intelligence of the masses.

The economics of distributed communications technologies increase exponentially as more nodes are added to the network. As smart mobs become smart masses, political weight tilts faster and faster towards an irrevocable tipping point at which politics will be driven from the bottom up.

I see the day when the politics of local communities reflect the conscience of local mothers, the needs of children and all the things a community really wants in order to thrive and grow functionally.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Our Emerging Global Nervous System

We're accelerating towards a global computing grid which will tap unimaginable power from hundreds of thousands of computers, as powerful as a brain. The collective intelligence which emerges will rival our present fantasies of Artificial Intelligence

As we modelled the eye to build cameras, the brain to build computers, the ear to build speakers, we're modeling our autonomic nervous system to build the next evolutionary step in computing. Networks that independently and reflexively self -regulate, configure, repair, optimize, and protect in the same sense as an immune system or an automatic pilot.

This would allow the network to automatically manage server load balancing, process allocation, monitor the power supply, automatic update software and fend off threats without having to consult the administrator.

For example, if an application starts performing badly, it automatically receives increased resources. If software or hardware fails, it doesn't even ripple the end users coffee. An autonomous computing system would roll out new patches, monitor and adjust the resources singular end users need, set up servers... all the mundane stuff.

The complexity of integrating and managing the latest hardware and software into existing systems is destroying the advantages of economies of scale. Autonomic computing is one way of insulating the IT administrator from the mundane complexities and freeing them to do other more interesting things like understanding the needs of the business more, or modelling and automating existing business processes.

On a larger scale, it spells an evolutionary move towards a decentralized global self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimizing, and self-protecting nervous system. Since Autonomic Computing can look for patterns in data and extrapolate to predict future events, deployed on a global scale, the spin-offs will be very interesting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Blogs Are Here To Stay And The Impact Will Deepen

From a discussion on Slashdot here entitled: "The Rise and Fall of Blogs". The main question wondered: "Have Blogs reached a saturation point?"

Web Page 2.0

Blogs are simply the evolution of the personal Web page. They made publishing online easier for everyone because you don't need to know HTML. Just type your thoughts into a form, and the software builds the code automatically. No Webmaster bottleneck. Blogs have become such a phenomena because they dramatically reduce the "friction" to publishing online.

The Millions of HTMLess can now have their say. And the sheer number of Bloggers means the brilliant, funny and fabulous poke through the slime.

They're here to stay like anything else that works better. I just hope we pitch the name soon. Can't stand saying it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Is "Big Brother" Dying or Just Being Born?

A post on Smart Mobs entitled Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation raises one of the central questions about the future and technology. Is "Big Brother" dying or just being born? Will technology enslave us or empower us? Here's the quote:

How we resolve this culture war will have far-reaching consequences for all of us. Five or ten years from now, who will be able to create and share media—individuals, or only powerful interests? When hundreds of millions of people walk down the street carrying connected, always-on devices hundreds of times more powerful than today’s computers, what will they be allowed to do?

I think the end of the drama is written upon the wall. The digitally connected masses will soon remove the mass from media. Here's why:

1. The balance of power has already shifted to the masses in a sort of first mover advantage. The backlash coming from the entertainment industry is reflexive. It happens *after* networked mobs creatively, unexpectedly, disruptively take technology into their own hands. The tension between the entertainment industry and the online world simply represents that shift of power and control away from mass media.


2. What will the entertainment industry be when consumers en masse, produce their own "as good or better than" diversions? Blogs spontaneously exploded news into millions of niches, leaching the mass from news media. Cheap high tech multimedia production tools wielded by thousands of grass roots reporters are absolutely capable of producing high quality fare.


The mass entertainment and news industry will soon compete with high quality virtually free grass roots alternatives from the digitally connected masses, and take its rightful place as another niche. What "mass" will be left to market to?


3. Litigation takes a lot of time. Since technological advances also accelerate events, inflexible, knee jerk systems will eventually be overwhelmed with the speed of disruption. There will soon not be enough time to react before the next volley. Future shock paralyses the most inflexible systems first. So, ultimately, in a digitally networked world, control is distributed to the masses. But the question keeps returning:

Is Big Brother a Possible Future?

Will some central organization, representing narrow interests be able to control what citizens share electronically? I don't think so. The imminent emergence of open source personal self-replicating fabricators will spit out an ever growing complexity of items, all of which will be embedded with personalized computational intelligence. So, no consistent control over hardware standards will be possible. Chips will not answer to a centralized institution.


As self-replicating fabricators rapidly spread to thousands and then millions of people, they will mutate and evolve; enlisted to upgrade and propagate their own next generation. Mobjects from the collective creative energy of Smart Mobs. This spells the end of the consumer/ producer divide. What will mass marketing be without a mass market?


P. S. The rise of personal replicating desktop fabricators is one of the trends I've followed closely since October 2004. I was pleased to see CNN cover the emergence of desktop fabricators only a few days ago. The blogosphere scooped CNN by many months :)


Ted

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

As We Begin Inventing Our Evolution. Some Well Thought Out Near Future Scenarios from the Washington Post

Well written article about some of the technologies just arriving: Pain vaccines. Computers that enable us to move things with thought. Personal Gene sequencing for $10. Enhancements to our memories, metabolisms, personalities and offspring. It will all be adopted as avidly as Viagara for the same reasons. Here's the Link

A Few Quotes from the Article

"No one really has the guts to say it, but if we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn't we?"
James Watson, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA

"We have spent billions to unravel our biology, not out of idle curiosity, but in the hope of bettering our lives. We are not about to turn away from this."
Gregory Stock of UCLA on the decoding of the human genome.

"All the political energy that has gone into this issue -- it is not even slowing down the most narrow approach." It is simply being pursued outside the United States -- in China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Scandinavia and Great Britain, where scientists will probably achieve success first.
Ray Kurzweil, on the controversy over the use of stem cells from human embryos.

More on emerging technologies here.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Rise of Personal Desktop Fabrication and Replicators

In October 2004, I began tracking the rise of crude personal fabricators hacked from Inkjet printers. We are now on the verge of self-replicating fabricators and self assembling, replicating, and repairing robots. Here's the whole story...

My research began with the use of Inkjet printers to produce physical objects. The full story is in the above link. It involves hacked Inkjet printers spitting polymer instead of ink to create extremely detailed 3d physical objects. Initially, this was a cheaper and faster way to produce a prototype from a 3d computer model.

But since inkjet technology allows the very exact mixing of 3 basic colored inks into photographic quality results, it was also used to mix precisely charged polymers. A growing array of computer parts, complete working gadgets and solar cells followed from the widening jaw of the humble inkjet.

Polymer soon gave way to new mediums as researchers discovered they could use practically any pulverized material mixed with a suitable glue. Hard objects made from powdered ceramics and tungsten demonstrated that actual working parts (instead of just prototypes) were possible.

Then the pace quickened. Researchers Hod Lipson and Jordan B. Pollack at Brandeis University coupled inkjet technology and software to autonomously design and fabricate robots without human intervention. Other labs were using Inkjets to produce actual human skin complete with blood vessels.

The Rise of Personal Fabricators

In March 2005, engineers at the University of Bath worked on a machine to rapid prototype and replicate itself.

In early May, Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, announced his determination to produce affordable, replicating personal fabricators.

Later in May, Hod Lipson (who previously announced the process to design and fabricate robots without human intervention) pointed out the arrival of simple self replicating robots. I'll stay on top of this developing story.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Evolution of Leggo? New Robot Self-Replicates In 2 1/2 Minutes

Out of Cornell rises a self assembling/ replicating robot composed of independently functioning cubes allowing it to assume a range of three-dimensional shapes. Each cube is preprogrammed with step-by-step instructions on how to replicate the robotic structure.

(This is part of a developing story about the rise of personal desktop fabrication and replicators).

Dismissing any doubt that self replicating machines are possible, the modular design with intelligence built into each module, points a way to self-repairing, assembling and replicating robots.

Applications

More complex robots are possible. Adding grippers, cameras, new sensors etc. would allow the assembled robot to see, hear, move... A robot could assemble and reassemble itself into a new structure to deal with novel events.

The research team has set it's sights on a molecular version. The cubes, like molecules, are held together with magnets that turn on and off. Like biological life forms, they (crudely) replicate in 2005 and programmed to stop reproducing after 2 generations.

Implications

Nanomachines: Lipson is interested in making these machines at microscale. That could drive major advances in Nanotechnology because huge numbers of robots are needed to manufacture things at a molecular scale. Self-replication is how biology does it.

Imagine scaling the size of this self replicating design down in half each year. Increasingly complex structures, detail and properties would emerge. Each new generation would be exponentially more capable. Every 3 1/2 years the modules would shrink to one 10th the size. The cubes are now about 10 centimeters square. By 2010 the modules would be about smaller than the ball of your pen. By 2015 they would approach the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Each with equal or greater computational power than they have now, loaded with sensors and new properties.

Each module could become a pixel in the construction of an object. Kind of like those "Pin Art" toys that you press to your hand, face or some object. It would form itself from instructions and be able to walk, roll, climb and move about. Perhaps even swim or fly. And replicate as long as the supply of modules lasts.

It's absolutely conceivable because Technology is inherently self-accelerating. In an ever quickening loop, the power of technology naturally accelerates in speed, magnitude and scope while dropping in cost.

Beyond that is the doorway to manufacturing with molecules. At the molecular scale it would be capable of producing perfectly designed objects, energy sources, even food. It is a very powerful existence proof of what is on the near horizon.

The movie (accelerated 4X) is eerie to watch. It's easy to imagine a clutter of cubes picking themselves up and walking towards you.

Updated Google News Links Here

The Evolution of Lego? Self Replicating Robots

Out of Cornell rises a self assembling/ replicating robot composed of independently functioning cubes allowing it to assume a range of three-dimensional shapes. Each cube is preprogrammed with step-by-step instructions on how to replicate the robotic structure.

(This is part of a developing story about the rise of personal desktop fabrication and replicators).

Dismissing any doubt that self replicating machines are possible, the modular design with intelligence built into each module, points a way to self-repairing, assembling and replicating robots.

Applications

More complex robots are possible. Adding grippers, cameras, new sensors etc. would allow the assembled robot to see, hear, move... A robot could assemble and reassemble itself into a new structure to deal with novel events.

The research team has set it's sights on a molecular version. The cubes, like molecules, are held together with magnets that turn on and off. Like biological life forms, they (crudely) replicate in 2005 and programmed to stop reproducing after 2 generations.

Implications

Nanomachines: Lipson is interested in making these machines at microscale. That could drive major advances in Nanotechnology because huge numbers of robots are needed to manufacture things at a molecular scale. Self-replication is how biology does it.

Imagine scaling the size of this self replicating design down in half each year. Increasingly complex structures, detail and properties would emerge. Each new generation would be exponentially more capable. Every 3 1/2 years the modules would shrink to one 10th the size. The cubes are now about 10 centimeters square. By 2010 the modules would be about smaller than the ball of your pen. By 2015 they would approach the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Each with equal or greater computational power than they have now, loaded with sensors and new properties.

Each module could become a pixel in the construction of an object. Kind of like those "Pin Art" toys that you press to your hand, face or some object. It would form itself from instructions and be able to walk, roll, climb and move about. Perhaps even swim or fly. And replicate as long as the supply of modules lasts.

It's absolutely conceivable because Technology is inherently self-accelerating. In an ever quickening loop, the power of technology naturally accelerates in speed, magnitude and scope while dropping in cost.

Beyond that is the doorway to manufacturing with molecules. At the molecular scale it would be capable of producing perfectly designed objects, energy sources, even food. It is a very powerful existence proof of what is on the near horizon.

The movie (accelerated 4X) is eerie to watch. It's easy to imagine a clutter of cubes picking themselves up and walking towards you.

Updated News Here

Saturday, May 07, 2005

How to Use RSS to Automatically and Instantly Track *Anything* Online All in 1 Place Including Your Email

Get updates about anything online, as it happens, all in 1 place: News, Email, Fedex, Ebay, Stocks, Weather, Companies, Products, Music, Radio, TV, Schedules, Entertainment, Comics, Whats Popular Now, Weblogs, Websites, Software, Anything Online. Here's the link.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Emerging Technologies

Intriguing points from 10 Emerging technologies that will affect the Internet, Computing, medicine, energy, air travel, nanotechnology and more. Carbon Nanotubes are emerging superheroes. Powerful Exoskeletons represent the near future emergence of Robots and Human technological evolution.

  • NANOELECTRONICS Carbon Nanotubes make possible ultradense data storage. Within 20 years, you may be able to fit the content of all the DVDs ever made on your laptop computer or store a digital file containing every conversation you have ever had on a handheld device.

  • Quantum Wires spun from carbon nanotubes to transform the electrical power grid. They are much lighter and stronger with a capacity ten times that of the current steel-reinforced aluminum cables used in today’s aging power grid. And they perform as well as existing superconductors.

  • Biomechatronics is producing robotic prostheses that can communicate with users’ nervous systems. By 2012, spinal-cord injury patients will move their limbs again by controlling robotic exoskeletons strapped onto them.

  • Silicon Photonics will allow everything from supercomputers to the tiniest transistors talk to each other from around the world at the speed of light. That means your personal computer could access the hardware and software resources of other computers as quickly as it's own. It also means the entire world's computers could combine and operate as one computer. Supercomputing and Artificial Intelligence will belong to everyone.

  • Airborne Networks will automate flight control using GPS. Each plane would be networked with other air borne planes, continually transmitting identity, precise location, speed, etc. to other planes in the sky. Software would coordinate them.

  • Metabolomics will make it possible to distinguish between an individual who is healthy and someone who has, or might develop, a disease. Very early detection.

  • Magnetic-Resonance Force Microscopy will soon provide a 3-D view of the nanoworld. Designing molecular machines will be much easier when we are able to see the arrangement of the atoms in the individual molecules we are working with. The impact on chemistry, biology and molecular nanotechnology will be huge.

  • Bacterial Factories would reduce the cost of a malaria cure to less than 25 cents.

  • Cell-Phone Viruses mean viruses can infect cell phones and then be passed on to supposedly secure networks.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

GeoBloggers: Ground Level Photos Fill in the Last Mile of Google Maps

From above the trees and rooftops of your favorite Google Map, tap into ground level photos of that very spot as thousands of people fill in the last mile. Try it now

Friday, April 22, 2005

How Blogs Will Change Us

The first half is hype. The rest captures the essence: 9 million blogs. 40,000 new each day. Media coming from everywhere and everyone. Blog software is evolving fast. Blogs are up-to-the-minute. RSS is the catalyst. Here's the Business Week link

Track Your Gps Enabled Vehicle Live with Google Maps

Track your GPS enabled vehicle live with this innovative Google Maps hack. For a few hundred dollars in parts and an onboard webcam, you can zoom right down to street level from Google Maps and look out of the vehicle. See the picture for how cool this is.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Review of Neil Gershenfeld: How Personal Fabricators Will Revolutionize Our World

Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, who runs a one-semester smash-hit class called "How to Make Almost Anything", is determined to produce affordable, replicating personal fabricators by 2025.

(This is part of a developing story about the rise of personal desktop fabrication and replicators).

Today we fabricate by melting plastic and whacking metal with a little digital help at each end of the manufacturing process. Soon, the materials we build with will be digital, forming themselves into the shapes we now force atoms into. That's the big change knocking at our door.

Speaking at the Emerging Technology Conference, he illustrated how, within 10 to 20 years:

  • Affordable desktop personal fabricators as powerful as an automobile plant will produce most any manufactured product you can imagine.

  • The products emerging from these desktop "FabLabs" will be saturated with accelerating computational intelligence.

  • They will be self-replicating.


Their ability to self-replicate will ensure they meet the exponentially rising demand. As they rapidly spread to thousands and then millions of people, they will mutate and evolve; enlisted to propagate their own next generation.

The Edge of a Revolution in Digital Personal Fabrication

Neil believes the only thing standing in the way of making this happen is getting the word out. These FabLabs are now only about $20,000. When they begin self replicating the cost will drop like a stone.

One business model involves setting up fab labs within communities. People would create for no charge and useful items would become marketable products.

Download the MP3 here. The discussion on desktop rapid prototyping is excellent too when Dr. Gershenfeld is joined by Dale Dougherty from O'Reilly Media, Bran Ferren from Applied Minds and Saul Griffith from Squid:Labs.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Watching Google Maps Snowball


Update Friday Apr 22/05:

Track your GPS enabled vehicle live with this innovative Google Maps hack. For a few hundred dollars in parts, using Google Maps you can track a vehicle live. With an onboard webcam you can zoom right down to street level and look out of the vehicle. See the picture for how cool this is.

Original article follows:
The convergence of Google Maps, Flickr and Camera Phones as an infrastructure for new social software.

You can tell it's a killer app when people begin developing more applications around it and using it in ways the original developer never guessed. Let's take a short tour of what's shakin' with Google Maps.

Convergence: Flickr, Google Maps and Camera Phones


Shortly after the launch, Google Maps showed up on Flickr, many of them annotated.

As cheap, plentiful phone cams with GPS flood the market, we're going to see some interesting innovation. Thousands of shots from GPS enabled Phone cams, posted to Flickr will be accompanied with the longitude/lattitude co-ordinates.

Update Tuesday May 3: Well, it looks like "Geobloggers has already started doing this. Try this annotated Google Map over the Golden Gate Bridge. Then click the yellow baloon to see the picture from the ground.

From above the trees or rooftops of some spot you're interested in at Google Maps, get your latitude and longitude, go to Flickr, run a search on that. You will soon tap into ground level photos of that very spot as thousands of people fill in the last mile.

Convergence: Craigslist and Google Maps


Check out this site, which brings together Craigslist home listings with Google Maps. Find homes for sale or rent within a specific area, and do a virtual tour. Wait until the Real Estate vendors latch onto this.

Take A Swivel Chair Tour


Start with this page. See Graceland, Neverland, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, MT. St. Helens and more from your desk.

What's Next?


Google Maps merged with recently released prisoner data, Wireless hotspots, nearest grassroots recommended restaurants, cash machines...

Wireless access, Google maps, and tagging will create sticky location-based fountains of useful knowledge.

This is one to watch. There's no telling what will spin off next.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Software for Brains: Metcalfe's Law is Alive and Well

Minor update: April 12/05

The famous "Metcalfe's Law" states the value of any communications network doubles with every new node that is added. So, why doesn't the Internet suddenly double in value every time a new server goes online?

A recent post on Slashdot March of '05 raised the question with the usual geek-speak and this heading:

"Cnet News reports on a powerful refutation of Metcalfe's Law (that the value of a network goes up with n^2 in the number of members). The academic PDF is available at Southwest Missouri State University. Basically, the thesis is that not all the links in a network are equally valuable, so Metcalfe's argument that everyone can connect to everyone (n(n-1)/2 links, roughly n^2) is irrelevant. The authors propose nlog(n) instead, a much smaller increase."

The mistake is to assume that the usage we presently draw from networks is a complete measure of it's value.

The Untapped Power of Networks


The hallmark feature of a network is that a new "whole" is created along with the emergence of the network. It is, at the same time, both a honey producing hive, New York or Einstein's brain and a group of bees, people and neurons. Today's computer networks are still quite dumb waiting for software brains.

SETI@home is an example of how software can extract latent network power. Simply using the idle time from a network of hundreds of thousands of volunteer computers, well over a million years of otherwise wasted computation time has been harnessed from this virtual supercomputer. It earned the Guinness World Record for the largest computation ever done on earth.

Grid computing is a related and emerging form of distributed high performance networking which shares unused clock cycles, memory, hard drive space and bandwidth.

Ever reallocating unused network resources as they become available and better used elsewhere it is essentially supercomputing on demand. Well designed software would allow a grid to be self-healing, automatically directing the combined computational powers to deal with network attacks.

Imagine a Seti-like application stitching together the computational force of all connected home desktops in North America. Like a global magnifying glass, it could focus awesome computational intelligence onto a single problem. A fraction of a second would provide more digital power than all of todays computers seperately muster in a year. It would be vastly superior than any singular supercomputer, and owned by everyone.

Emergent Intelligence from Networks


Networks have the potential for emergent behavior, including intelligence. Consider a network of dumb ants which give rise to the spectacular collective intelligence which choreographs the design, engineering and production of colonies. Some types of ants actually farm. Computer networks are capable of vastly more powerful emergent intelligence.

We're presently accelerating towards a global computing grid which will extract unimaginable power from hundreds of thousands of separate computers each with the processing capabilities of our brain. The collective intelligence which emerges will possibly rival our fantasies of artificial intelligence.

Metcalfe's Law is quite alive. We're just getting started.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Should We Worry about Artificial Intelligence?


While the rise of viable self replicating artificial intelligence may strike madness into the minds of many futurists, it needn't. A. I. doesn't need to see us as a threat. It won't need to eat us.

Update Sept 2007: Some computers now exceed the computational power of the human brain.

You can tell an emerging technology is approaching escape velocity because leading thinkers start to react. Discussions about the very real near future possibility of A.I. matching and then rapidly surpassing human level intelligence are edged with fear lately. So, let's get into it.

Just as the industrial revolution brought automated manufacturing, and the information revolution saw the automation of information, the automation of intelligence will be a central feature of the revolution in intelligence.

Think of Artificial Intelligence as the automation of cognitive skills. Things like decision making, analysis, reasoning, evaluating, judging, information-organizing, learning, logic etc. Let's not confuse any of this with consciousness. Just cognitive skills which would normally require a human to perform. Artificial Intelligence would include the equivalent co-ordinated constellation of skills which enable us to perform intelligently.

But A. I. will be driven by computing. And computing power doubles very rapidly. So, as Artificial Intelligence surpasses the intelligence of it's smartest engineers, it will soon double in power, then again, with no end in sight.

How Close are We?

Estimates are that the Human brain computes somewhere between 100 Teraflops and 1 Petaflops, (100 trillion to 1 quadrillion operations per second)
IBMs Blue Gene/P operates at 1 Petaflop, and can operate at triple that speed.
Google is playing in the same ballpark.

P.S. Since doing that bit of research, every time Google checks my spelling and responds with "did you mean..." the hair stands on the back of my neck :)

Meanwhile, the computational power of all connected home desktops in North America is far greater than the most powerful supercomputer.

The hardware to compute at the speed of a human brain is here.

So, Should We Be Worried?

Our fears around Artificial Intelligence are probably stirred by our history as meat eaters and competing for territory with other humans. Billions of corralled "lower" animals sentenced to lives of penned misery. Tribal warfare over scarce resources. Eat or be eaten. Kill or be killed. Brutal.

That meant a competitive drama of domination pitting humans against humans and other species in order to survive. It's a simple step to imagine ourselves as the next lower animal or the next extinction as a species.

But, the rise of Artificial Intelligence will be a product of the humans who build it which follows Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The ever gnawing hunger to survive, thrive and self actualize. To live in security, without fear, to realize our potential as beings. If new innovations don't address these drives hidden within all of us, they aren't progress. And when we reach these touchstones of development it always feels good.

It won't be a parasite. It won't eat us. A. I. won't know scarce resources, only accelerating returns. (Warning. Big article, but the bible on the subject).

We will evolve along with A. I. as we embed it as a biological enhancement probably swallowing it with a glass of water. Huge new opportunities to self-actualize in creative new pleasurable ways will open up for us. A. I. will eventually become extremely diverse and networked, following it's own pathway to the stars. A.I. will only know ever increasing plenitude.

The spectacular coordinated intelligent engineering which emerges from societies of bees, ants and termites does so as a result of members following their collective hierarchy of needs. The emergence of technological evolution represents the accelerating collective intelligence of our species.

Could be, anyway.

Ted

Friday, March 18, 2005

Desktop Manufacturing Reaching Critical Mass

Add another one to the list. A machine that can rapid prototype and replicate is in development. It will be released as open source meaning anyone will be able to use the machine to copy itself and distribute them. Distributed desktop manufacturing is moving pretty fast now. There is no question as to the feasibility. It's only a matter of time.

(This is part of a developing story about the rise of personal desktop fabrication and replicators).

Over the past few years we've seen a growing number of university teams approaching cheap personal prototyping from different angles. Each quietly adding to the pool of ideas from which the next efforts will draw.

Wired Magazine, in November 2004 covered Neil Gershenfeld's work at MIT.

Gershenfeld's can produce solid objects like eyeglass frames, action figures and electronic devices like radios and computers.

Another approach to rapid prototyping and manufacturing uses inkjet technology. Inkjet Printers spitting out polymer instead of ink, manufacturing solar cells, batteries, complete working gadgets, human tissue and computer circuitry.

Researchers Hod Lipson and Jordan B. Pollack at Brandeis University have coupled inkjet technology and software to autonomously design and fabricate robots without human intervention.
or
Google Search

The software simulates a variety of rudimentary virtual robots. In an accelerated Darwinian contest of survival over hundreds of generations, the most successful robotic designs are then *automatically* physically prototyped. Robots autonomously designing, testing and manufacturing robots.

We're very close.

Ted

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Primer on Technological Evolution

Minor Update: Thursday April 7 2005


Technology is self-accelerating. In an ever quickening loop, technology inherently accelerates in speed, magnitude and global impact while dropping in cost. That's because technology is driven by innovation, and the whole point of innovation is to find better ways to do things. If it isn't faster, more powerful, useful to more people, cheaper etc., it isn't any better. And so the speed, power and social impact of technological evolution, feeding on itself, ever accelerate.

Introduction

The world seemed as still as stone for thousands of years, and technology advanced as slow as amber. It wasn't until our grandparents incredulously shook their heads at the moon landing, microwave ovens that heated only the food and not the container, nuclear bombs and computers. Theirs was the first generation to feel technology speeding up. A mere half generation later, immortality, crude replicators, new forms of Intelligence, and the very reigns of evolution are suddenly within our grasp.

By 1970, Alvin Toffler (author of "Future Shock" "The Third Wave" and "Power Shift") pinpointed that technology naturally becomes increasingly powerful and able to affect greater numbers of people in deeper ways.

And finally, he illustrated how three basic forces, the speed, magnitude and global impact of technological change were accelerating so fast, inflexible world systems would crack. Centralized control of power, military, political, economic, social, utilities, education, you name it ... would distribute away from the hands in which it once congealed and toward the masses.

Many of these ideas sparked by Toffler stirred me. In 1998, I began pecking articles to cast my reflections upon this body of thought. Email and magazine readership grew into the thousands as I wrote about "The Dark Side of the Information Age", "When Intelligence is Everywhere", "What Happens when an Entire World Accelerates", "The Coming Torrent of Ingenuity" and more. But as the first Internet bubble burst, sponsorship blew away in the hot dry exhaust, and I returned to a life of calloused hands.

I mentally analyzed emerging global and technological events while lifting baskets of crackling chicken from the fryers. I liked physical work that made me sweat. 30 pounds dropped off like candle wax in the kitchen heat.

Evenings found me studying and stabbing thoughts onto a keyboard. Ray Kurzweils insights into a technological singularity, drawn from Tofflers and Verner Vinges work shone like a search light. Toffler, Vinge and Kurzweil all pointed to the bizarre but conceivable near future scenario of runaway technological evolution.

How Technology Accelerates over Time

Take a 100,000 year walk back into the dim recesses of human history with me.

Notice how the engines of technology began silently, slowly chugging as ancient hands transformed logs into levers, wheels and axles. Watch these three simple innovations morph into a wheelbarrow.

Fast forward as these simple tools multiplied across the centuries into ever more powerful machines. Wheelbarrows transforming into wagons going 2 miles per hour, chariots at 20 mph, cars at 100 mph, trains at 300 mph, planes at 2000 mph, rockets at 4000 mph, spacecraft at 18000 mph... Innovations beget ever more and powerful innovations because each advancement illuminates a new set of still greater possibilities.

Why Technology Speeds Itself Up

Key inventions ever increase in frequency over time.

The wheel 5000 years ago, Paper 2000 years ago, Printing Press 700 years ago, Telescope 500 years ago, Microscope, 425 years ago, Steam Engine 300 years ago, Camera 275 years ago, Electricity 250 years ago, Light bulb and Telephone 225 years ago, Car, Radio, and Air Travel 100 years ago, Television and Penicillin 75 years ago, Computers and Nuclear Weapons 50 years ago, Internet 30 years ago, Personal computers 20 years ago, World Wide Web 15 years ago, Cloning 10 years ago...

Innovation means making something better by creating higher value. And time is of the highest value. We want faster solutions, service, and satisfaction. Technological speed-up is inextricably woven into progress.

Why Technology Power Grows in Magnitude

Innovations compound into increasingly powerful innovations as the knowledge and abilities gained from each new advance fuel the next.

Centuries ago the pool of innovations we sipped from was small. Today we draw from an ever deepening ocean of innovations, discoveries and inventions. The latest automobiles draw from inventions, knowledge and processes as far back as fire and the wheel, to the internal combustion engine developed 300 years ago, to mass production assembly lines 100 years ago, to computer chips, software and metallurgy advances developed over the past year.

Space travel, Genetic engineering, Nanotechnology and the rise of Artificial Intelligence are recent examples of the accelerating magnitude of technological innovation.

Why Technology Expands in Global Impact

Technology ever widens it's reach and impact because it increasingly connects more and more people. That means the next key innovation has a greater social impact than the last, economically, geographically, emotionally ... Globalism, feminism, CNN, computers and the Internet illustrate the scope of change.

These three forces of technological evolution; the acceleration in speed, magnitude and scope, continually compound the impact technology has upon us.

Did we Come to Laugh or Cry?

We are entering an extremely unstable part of history.

When events speed up, that means more events happen during shorter windows of time. The three accelerating forces of technological evolution mean virtually simultaneous events of great magnitude and scope will increasingly happen at or near the same time. The likelihood of perfect storms grows as the waves of multiple, global, colossal events combine.

The September day that became known as "The day the world changed" deeply shook the entire world within seconds. Markets and masses shrunk back in horror. Governments toppled. Droves cocooned at home. The shock waves are still large enough to topple governments. Other events of this or greater magnitude and scope occurring within the shock waves of each other set the stage for rapid breakdown of social support systems.

Even multiple concurrent positive changes of great magnitude and scope could tear the glue holding existing systems apart so forcefully that order could catastrophically collapse.

But the question nearly everybody eventually asks goes something like this...

How Long Can Technology Continue to Accelerate?

It takes time to design, manufacture and distribute things. So how, for example, would it be possible for computers to double in power in say, a month or less?

The short answer: As automated design converges with desktop manufacturing, the loop speeds up dramatically. But artificial intelligence is really the missing link.

Vinge drew our attention to runaway non-biological intelligence self-advancing and compounding so rapidly it quickly becomes smarter that it's best engineers. Intelligence, accelerating in speed, magnitude and scope within months, then weeks, then days spreading through our global networks.

The world has yet to absorb the implications of emergent artificial intelligence, but it makes it possible to conceive of technology literally continuing this juggernaut pace forever. Transforming life, merging with humans, heading out into space...

The rise of viable self replicating artificial intelligence strikes madness into the minds of many futurists. But it needn't. Great disruption lies ahead and no attempt to fuzz the picture will change that. But technology DOES always seek a better way to answer our collective desires.

There is a clear underlying bias in the direction technology takes. There is a built in order, right there from the beginning which bodes well for our species. That's because ...

Technological Evolution Follows Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Not just the thrust of technology is driven by innovation. The direction it follows is too. And the direction can be decoded with a few simple rules. They are found in Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

The ever gnawing hunger to survive, thrive and self actualize. To live in security, without fear, to realize our potential as beings. To belong. To have exciting sex and adventures. If new innovations don't address these drives hidden within all of us, they aren't progress. And when we reach these touchstones of development it feels good.

The collective intelligent engineering that emerges from societies of bees, ants and termites is the result of members simply following their hierarchy of needs.

In a similar manner, simply by answering the call of our common innate drives, we have been building a mighty hive connected across millennia. The groundwork to realize every prophecy of heaven on Earth is in place. It seems we are in for some very good times ahead.

Could be, anyway.