ASF Home | AC2005 | Newsletter Archive| Contact Us

Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

18 January, 2005
Newsletter Permalink:
Free Signup: Tell a friend!


Our Monthly Speaker Salons. Friday, Jan 21st San Diego Futurists has Andrew Breese discussing the 2005 World Question at "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" Friday, Jan 28th, LA Futurists joins UCLA Futurists at UCLA to hear Stephen Coles, M.D. Ph.D. review Ray Kurzweil's new longevity book, Fantastic Voyage, 2005. Also Friday, Jan 28th Bay Area Futurists hosts a panel with reps from Google, Identity Commons, and Liberty Alliance on online identity. Friday, Feb 11th Las Vegas Futurists discusses Fareed Zakaria's acclaimed book on liberal and illiberal democracies, The Future of Freedom, 2003. You can sign up for monthly event emails at the group links above. Hope you can join us!

New AC2004 Speaker Slides
Jim Spohrer's
fascinating slides on "service science," are now posted at the Accelerating Change 2004 website. How do we ensure appropriate R&D and innovation occurs in the growing services sector, which is now the majority of the U.S. economy? Funding the development of service science as a new academic discipline was a key recommendation of the National Innovation Initiative report of the Council on Competitiveness (see Business, below).

New AC2004 Audio

Gee Rittenhouse, VP of Wireless Networking at Lucent, is the latest AC2004 speaker now available for streaming and download ("podcast") at our media partner, IT Conversations. Listen to Gee's talk on "The Future of Wireless Networking." or visit the AC2004 speaker archive (new entries every month).

Download these to your iPod Mini and get mobile enlightenment!


Telling the Acceleration Story... in Five Spaces

Tech Tidbits covers world news and insight in five "Spaces." We've chosen these five because the story of accelerating change, the most fascinating story of our time, appears to be a story of movement from outer, to human, to inner, to cyber, and perhaps ultimately, to hyper space. Each of these spaces deserves deeper understanding by those who seek a multidisciplinary perspective on the future:

Outer Space (science, environment, universal systems theory)
Human Space (bodies, behavior, minds, human systems theory)
Inner Space (energy, small tech, computer "bodies", inner systems theory)
Cyber Space (computer "behavior", computer "minds", cyber systems theory)
Hyper Space (hyperphysics (black holes, multiverse), hyper systems theory)

Each Tidbits showcases one to three interesting stories in each space. Stories that don't make the newsletter are posted to Accelaware, our new discussion forum (to be announced soon). If you have important stories to share with our 3,100 acceleration-aware readers, we'd love to hear from you.

"The world operates on moral and spiritual principles just as it does on the laws of physics and gravity. It is up to us to learn what those principles are and then live by them." – Sir John Templeton

Outer Space
science (biology, chemistry, geology, physics, research), environment, universal systems theory (developmental physics, evolutionary development, hierarchical substrates)

Quantum Physics
Seeing Evo-Devo at the Quantum Level
[Commentary by John Smart] How does the strange, indeterminate, and observer-dependent world of quantum physics turn into the stable, classical reality we all see and agree upon? An evo-devo form of "quantum darwinism" is just now being uncovered by our best scientists, one that describes quantum events as a process of evolutionary observations that "decohere" into developmental reality.

Each subjective observer takes their own unique, unpredictable path, but the environment maintains stable imprints ("pointer states") of these observations, and certain imprints proliferate (replicate) faster than others, and an environment-induced selection ("einselection") occurs.

As this process runs, it rapidly closes off nonlocal correlations in Hilbert space, and soon any subjective observer coming along must get a picture that sees the same developed, "objective" state: the classical macroscopic physics of the universe. Even at the quantum level, change appears to be a beautifully balanced, parallel process of evolution and development. (Wojciech H. Zurek of Los Alamos National Lab, "Decoherence, Einselection, and the Quantum Origins of the Classical," Dec 2004, reported in "Natural Selection Acts on the Quantum World," News@Nature, 23 Dec 2004). Thanks to Alex Lightman for this link.

Human Space
(biology, health, neuroscience), behavior (business, education, foresight, governance, innovation, pre-digital technology, society), minds (psychology, spirituality), human systems theory (ecological psychology, memetics)

IBM, others push for greater U.S. innovation, IDG News, Grant Gross, 12.15.05
[JS] Innovate America is an excellent 68 page report just published by the National Innovation Initiative (NII), co-chaired by IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, and Georgia Tech president G. Wayne Clough. NII is a 15 month project of the esteemed Wash, DC-based Council on Competitiveness, involving 400 leaders of corporations, universities, and professional societies. Palmisano says innovation is our most important heritage, and should be our top national priority, yet we are slipping badly in this area in recent years. Consider these disturbing facts:

• In 2002, U.S. Corporate R&D declined by $8 billion, the largest single drop since 1950.
• 5 countries (Japan, Korea, Sweden, Finland, Israel) spend more GDP on R&D than we do.
• China passed the U.S. in 2004 as the largest recipient of foreign direct investment, and China's market for integrated circuits will surpass the U.S. market in 2005.
• Foreign owned companies and foreign-born inventors now count for nearly half of all U.S. patents, with Japan, Korea, and Taiwan accounting for more than one fourth.
• Federal R&D funding is now only 1/2 of its 1960's peak of 2% of GDP.
• Total scientific papers by American authors peaked in 1992 and have been flat since.
• Services are the fastest growing sector of many technology companies, yet much of our services sector, now more than half the U.S. economy, traditionally does little R&D on business process design, organization, and management.

The NII makes about 30 recommendations, and many seem excellent: immigration fast tracking for sci-tech, technology graduate fellowships, better innovation metrics, 10 designated "innovation centers" federally funded for 5 years to reward regional competitiveness, safe-harbor provisions allowing public companies to talk about intangible innovation assets, tax credits for companies that create sci-tech scholarships, and many others.

Can IBM and the rest of the Council help us bring back the magic to the U.S. economy? Let's hope this report gets the political traction it needs.

In their strategic model, NII proposes that innovation/competiveness/acceleration (evolution) are more important than efficiency/cooperation/sustainability (development) as national technology, business and social priorities. Evo-devo systems theory would argue these priorities are equally important long term, even as they are often in contradiction. But innovation has clearly lagged in recent years, and its time has come.

And what does Palmisano consider our biggest unrecognized opportunity? Innovation partnerships, both corporate and personal, with the 3 billion new workers who have entered the global workforce over the last 10 years, courtesy of IT and communications advances. Let's make it happen! Thanks to Melanie Swan for the link.

EPIC 2014 Scenario: News Technology in the Future, Museum of Media History, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson, 2004 (8 minute web flash video)
[JS] Take a look at this scenario on the future of automated news technology, by a couple of independent artist futurists. Nice understanding of coming NLP (natural language processing) technologies, and why search and AI companies like Google will very likely buy human-run news media like the New York Times within our lifetime.

Just a few quibbles: it oversensationalizes (NYT would never go offline on the way to its eventual merger) and the timeline seems about ten years (or more) earlier than NLP technology will probably allow. But, in general, a good, provocative slice of future thinking. Googlezon awaits! Thanks to Paul Grasshoff for the link.

Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio Fund, Wall Street Journal, 12.7.2005
[JS] Finally, a great exchange-traded fund (ETF) allowing average U.S. investors to participate in China's economic miracle, by owning equity in a diversified basket of Chinese companies. Democratized globalization takes time, but it is worth the wait!

Now there are two Chinese ETF's available to U.S. investors, Global Dragon (GD) and iShares Xinhua China 25 Index Fund. GD looks like the best choice, as it covers 43 top companies while iShares only has 25, GD has a lower expense ratio (0.6%, cost of running the fund), and only GD emphasizes investment in Chinese companies' American depositary receipts, which require higher accounting transparency than non-U.S. disclosure standards.

Want to participate in an economy that reinvests 50% of its GDP, vs. 12% in the U.S.? Now you can!

Korean Scientists Succeed in Stem Cell Therapy, Korea Times, 11.26.2004
[Commentary by Jeff Hilford w/ JS] In South Korea, multi-potent stem cells from umbilical cord blood were reportedly transplanted into a 37 year old woman who had not been able to stand up in 19 years due to a gymnastics accident. Three weeks later she was apparently able to walk using a walker (see publicity picture at right).

If this is replicated, it is certainly a major medical advance. Cord stem cells are apparently able to reconfigure their surface antigens to avoid immune rejection, which is another appealing aspect of the therapy (no genetic donor matching needed). The team (Chosun University professor Song Chang-hun, Seoul National University professor Kang Kyung-sun and Han Hoon, Ph.D, from the Seoul Cord Blood Bank (SCB)) has applied to replicate the experiment on four more patients, and will report their results to the scientific community in the first half of 2005. Hold your breath on this one.

There are other reports of therapeutic benefit which must also remain suspect until replicated by reputable independent sources. A Chinese doctor operating without governmental restriction or oversight reports impressive results by injecting fetal stem cells into the afflicted areas of people suffering from disorders ranging from paralysis to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). In Brazil, a woman who had been rendered unable to walk or talk in the aftermath of a brain hemorrhage, reportedly regained both abilities after receiving a stem cell transplant.

As many know, the issue of stem cell research has become a major ethical battle in the U.S. and around the world, pitting political progressives and scientific researchers on one side against groups that consider the use of fetal stem cells immoral on the other.

This may be a classic case of local influence retarding a global agent of accelerating change, as accelerating progress continues in stem cell R&D at the fringes of the Western medical network. We are beginning to see the miracle applications of stem cells and advanced bio-tech, and, as the results become more frequent, remarkable, and well-publicized, I think we can expect the average public response to shift from protest to support. Thanks to Peter Voss for the link.

Inner Space
, small tech (nanoengineering, miniaturization), computer "bodies" (automation, computer hardware, nanotech, robotics), inner systems theory (acceleration, efficiency, miniaturization, reductionism)

The Future's Bright for Diamond Dust, U of Bristol Press Release, 12.14.2004
Diamond Dust May Make Televisions Thin, Sci-Tech News, Mike Martin, 1.3.2005
[JS] In 1998, three Bell Labs researchers (W. Zhu et al., Low-Field Electron Emission from Undoped Nanostructured Diamond, Science 1998 282: 1471-1473) learned that dust-sized diamonds emit electrons at a lower voltage than any other substance.

As the commercial manufacture of nanodiamonds continues to advance, researchers in Britain, in a $1M partnership with U.S.-based Advanced Nanotech, are betting that this technology is ripe for commercialization. Neil Fox at the University of Bristol envisions, among other things, flat panel display screens that are hundreds of dollars cheaper, and of course, more energy efficient, one of the central stories of the microcosm. Thanks to Ted St. Rain.

Cyber Space
computer "behavior" (co-evolution, automation, symbiosis), computer "minds" (computer software, simulation), cyber systems theory (holism, information, intelligence, interdependence, immunity)

Scanner creates perfect-fit jeans, by Paula Hancocks,
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf] Ever have trouble finding cool clothes with a perfect fit? (Maybe you do and don’t even know it there, baggy ;-) Bodymetrics in the UK has a quick and simple system for mapping your body’s shape at a high resolution in 3D. The scanning process—which involves projections of white light stripes measured by cameras capturing over 200,000 data points in under 10 seconds—builds a customized digital avatar of your exact proportions that you can use for modeling potential outfits and, in some cases, tailoring that just-right size. Fashion designer Tristan Webber is using Bodymetric’s technology to create a new line of unique-to-the-wearer digitally fitted jeans he’s branded “Digital Couture.”

Bodymetric’s process was also put to good use in the recent UK National Sizing Survey. Among other findings, the survey revealed that the average measurement around British “women’s midriffs” has increased by 16.5 cm over the last 50 years. Clothing retailers who purchase the survey’s data will be able apply this kind of intimate sizing knowledge to their next generation make of clothing. (That should make a lot of people very happy.)

This kind of scanning process could also let individuals create avatars for self-introduction into video games and digital worlds. Presumably it could also do the opposite: move fashion designs prototyped in certain game worlds out into the real world. Just take a look at the impressive Space Think Dream webpage, full of high fashion and nifty gadgets that Rivers Run Red presently build and sell directly in the digital world of Second Life. Look out for crossovers.

Video Games
Troops in Iraq Gung-Ho for Video Games, Associated Press, Nick Wadhams, 1.3.2005
[Commentary by Jimbob Peltaire and IB] Many of our troops in Iraq are turning to shoot'em up violent games as a way of relaxing in their down time. It would be interesting to know if the military has conducted research showing that gamers in general are more inclined to become soldiers. Games like America's Army were created with the hope that this theory holds true, as it allows young civilians to get a taste of the Army's training experience.

Another important question brought up by this article: Do gamers carry over the behavior which they simulate inside of a game? Anti-violence activists are worried that graphically violent or criminal games like the new Grand Theft Auto will cause kids to mimic virtual criminal behavior. Some replicable research has shown that watching violence on TV causes people to act more violently afterward. Other studies have shown the cathartic value of videogames, however, so the issue is complex. Illinois is spearheading the debate, at present, as on Dec. 17th Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed legislation that graphically violent and graphically sexual video games be banned for distribution to minors. Other states will surely attempt this as well, the more realistic games get.

Hyper Space
(black holes, multiverse, string theory, supersymmetry), hyper systems theory (computational limits, technological singularity hypothesis, developmental singularity hypothesis, emergence, phase transitions)

Phase Changes and Saturation
Power Law Behavior and World Systems Evolution, Tessaleno Devezas and George Modelski, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, V70 N9, Nov 2003
[JS, Systems Theory] An excellent article modeling world social organization as a multilevel, self-similar, nested power-law process, following self-organized criticality. They suggest social change involves a range of processes that range in "size" (time duration) from 250 (or rarely, longer) down to 1 (very common) human generation, with few of the long duration developmental processes (e.g., world democracy, globalization), and a very large number of single generation processes (e.g., typical cultural and legal emergences). Assuming a human generational/cultural learning time of 30 years, they describe "K-waves" of 60 years encompassing developments such as the rise of leading sectors in the global economy (e.g., the emergence of automobiles, or electricity), and "long waves" of 120 years, such as the rise of world powers to a position of global leadership. All of this has been observed by other cycle scholars and seems quite reasonable.

One of the more helpful insights from their model is that the time duration of developmental innovations is inversely related to their importance to the developmental process (e.g., irreversible processes that take a long time to occur are both much rarer and more necessary to advance the system as a whole). Another very interesting insight is their observation that world system change, while still upsloped, has been slowing for 1,000 years, with the inflection point at roughly 1000AD.

Using a logistic growth curve ("S curve") their model of world system emergence proposes that human social development (the Y axis) is in a decelerating phase and is about "80% complete", and therefore that the major features of human social organization are now in place. In other words, they propose that social change is rapidly saturing, and will be significantly less dramatic and novel every year forward. A plausible scenario here: We all end up living in increasingly standardized individual empowering, fine grained, and fair social democracies, with conflict a highly regulated affair, and the only unregulated innovation occurring at the chaotic edge of human understanding and social need.

The authors delineate four phases of social change for the model, beginning with the Ancient Period (3000BC to 1,000BC), then Classical Period (1,000BC to 1,000AD) then the Modern Period (1,000-3,000AD) of "world system consolidation", and a presumed Postmodern Period (3,000-5,000AD) with little social change (though we can presume much change in the technological sphere). Each 2,000 year period corresponds well to the four phases in logistic growth: initiation, acceleration, deceleration, and saturation.

Aside from an understandable confusion of the concept of evolution and development (few systems theorists use the evolutionary developmental paradigm today) this is a commendable paper with a number of useful insights. I think it makes a good case, using one of many possible methodologies, for demonstrating what Modelski calls "world system evolution" (what I would call world system evolutionary development) as a system in saturation, falling off the leading edge of change. Recent data on human population flatlining in all developed countries is another soft indicator of human social system saturation, as we have discussed in previous ASF newsletters.

The next interesting question, unaddressed in this paper, is what new agent of evolutionary development has already begun to take over now that human social systems are decelerating. History argues that there always is a new agent in the background, as the leading edge of change always appears to be a second order "cascade of S curves," a tangential "J curve" of smoothly continuous acceleration (from the perspective of the network, not the individual nodes). It is for this reason that we see such smooth acceleration on a macroscopic scale (e.g., Carl Sagan's Cosmic Calendar).

My bet is that our increasingly autonomous technologies are the next system already leading local computational change. How rapidly will they develop their own human surpassing, "phase change" emergence? We will need do some careful studies to better explore that topic, but the best estimates I've collected to date suggest anywhere from 20 to 140 years from now, with 2060AD as the rough mean of the current careful predictive models. Thanks to Hal Linstone for the reference.

We all deserve a little fun every day. Send your entries for the next Tidbits!

Teaching Math
"Last week I purchased a burger for $1.58. The counter cashier took my $2 and I pulled an additional 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to him. He stood there, holding the change, looking down at the pictographic keys on his register. Neither I nor the manager could help him understand what to do next.

Why do I tell you this? To understand the consequences of the way we teach math in the U.S., a society afflicted with affluenza (the disease of affluence, of material and technological comfort):"

Teaching Math in 1950: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1970: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?
Teaching Math in 1980: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
Teaching Math in 1990: By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? (There are no wrong answers.)
Teaching Math in 2000: Please punch the following numbers on your calculators...

And we wonder why jobs requiring intelligence are being outsourced? :^( "

Alphachimp Cartoons at Pop!Tech 8
[JP and JS] You will enjoy these beautiful artist impressions of the thoughtful speakers and themes at Pop!Tech's 2004 conference, made by the talented graphic artists at Alphachimp.

Curated by futurist Andrew Zolli, Pop!Tech has developed a national reputation as one of the leading places to think broadly about the human implications of social and technological developments. (Accelerating Change, of course, is another such place). You can view the pictures through your web browser, or download all 35 images as a powerpoint by clicking on "Executive Summary," and you can click forward and back through them with no delay.

Call for Submissions
ASF is seeking submissions for our Accelerating Times (AT) web-based publication. AT is a "free and priceless" monthly to bimonthly newsletter covering scientific, technological, business, and social dialogs in accelerating change. Anyone may submit reader feedback, scan hits, article links, original papers, questions, and artwork to mail(at) Accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues.


Speaker Salons

New AC2004 Speaker Slides

New AC2004 Audio

Telling the Acceleration Story... in Five Spaces



Seeing Evo-Devo at the Quantum Level

IBM, others push for greater U.S. innovation

EPIC 2014 Scenario: News Technology in the Future

Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio Fund

Korean Scientists Succeed in Stem Cell Therapy

The Future's Bright for Diamond Dust

Scanner creates perfect-fit jeans

Troops in Iraq Gung-Ho for Video Games

Power Law Behavior and World Systems Evolution

Teaching Math

Alphachimp Cartoons at Pop!Tech 8


Gold Sponsor

Thanks to DFJ for early sponsorship of AC2005!


Performance Measurement for IT in Government
January 25-27,
Washington, DC

Gaming and Simulation Based Learning: Applications for Medicine
January 25
Long Beach, CA

Medicine Meets Virtual Reality
January 26-29
Long Beach, CA

Thanks for telling your acceleration-aware friends.
Check your newsletter header to find your subscribed email address.