and Organizational Changes
news! The ISAC has become a foundation. We are in the process of
putting together an initial endowment, and will have more to tell
you about that exciting development in a coming newsletter.
As a result, we have changed our name from Institute for the Study
of Accelerating Change to the Acceleration Studies Foundation
(ASF), a briefer title that still communicates our mission:
improving collective understanding and management of accelerating
have also renamed our e-newsletter from Tech Tidbits to
Accelerating Times (or ATimes), as the latter
more accurately represents our unique voice. This new ATimes
takes the place of our annual multi-page, multidisciplinary newsletter
of the same name.
AC2005 Date: September 16-18, 2005
have shifted the date for Accelerating
Change 2005: Intelligence Amplification and Artificial Intelligence,
to September 16-18. This end-of-summer date will
allow us to secure classrooms on the Stanford campus for our optional
Thursday and Friday tutorials, September 15-16. Hope you can
Technology, and the Matrix
If you have $60 to spring for the new Ultimate
Matrix Collection DVD set, one of the nice features is the "Roots
of the Matrix" disc, with two freewheeling 60-minute documentaries
discussing philosophy (Return to Source: Philosophy and the
Matrix) and science and technology futures (The Hard Problem:
The Science Behind the Fiction). I am on the second, along
with Cynthia Breazeal, David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, Esther
Dyson, George Gilder, Stephen Johnson, Kevin Kelly, Cristof Koch,
Ray Kurzweil, Karl Sims, Bruce Sterling, Sherry Turkle, Ken Wilber,
and a number of other fascinating futurists, scientists,
and systems thinkers, about 30 in all. These are worth watching
if you are going to own your own copy of the Matrix movies,
the most popular cultural meme for the rapid convergence of simulation
New AC2004 Audio
Agassi, Board Member, SAP, has an excellent AC2004 talk
Enterprise Agility," now available as a podcast (streaming
or download) at our media partner, IT
Conversations. A Panel Discussion on Challenges
of Persistent Distributed IT with Dana Blankenhorn,
Joachim Schaper, and Andreas Olligschlaeger
is also new this month. Click and listen at your computer or download
to your iPod Mini and get mobile enlightenment!
can regularly check the free AC2004
audio archive at IT Conversations, or register for email
notification of new postings.
the Acceleration Story... in Five Spaces
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:
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
Hyper Space (hyperphysics
(black holes, multiverse), hyper systems theory)
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.
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you
help them become what they are capable of being." –
is clearly intent on making humans successful." –
science (biology, chemistry, geology,
physics, research), environment, universal systems theory
(developmental physics, evolutionary development, hierarchical substrates)
Boomerang: Acoustic Sniper Detection for
by John Smart] BBN
Technologies, one of the leading contract innovators for government
and industry security and one of the original developers of the
internet (ARPAnet) has developed a mobile system to localize sniper
fire for vehicles in Iraq. BBN responded to a crash development
request by Tony Tether of DARPA, delivering the
first working model early last year in two months.
it consists of a seven microphone array that sits on top of Hummers
(see picture left). By analyzing both shock and sound waves, the
system can tell the soldier in seconds exactly where (direction,
distance, elevation) a sniper shot came from. It is still software-based
as it continues its trials; a hardware-based system would deliver
this info in milliseconds. The early version was twice as large
as the current one in the picture, and was occasionally confused
by radio interference. The new one solves those problems, and is
being deployed on hundreds of test vehicles. Expect these to get
even smaller, better, cheaper, and faster in coming months.
used genetic algorithms (the software approach pioneered by John
Koza, an AC2003 speaker) to "evolve" the detection
software, running the antenna design through thousands of iterations
in simulation space until it came up with a robust solution that
would work even on rapidly moving and bouncing vehicles. The Navy
and Marines are developing a more controversial system (Gunslinger)
that allows automatic return of fire in hostile environments.
about what this means for the long range future: a transparent,
sensor-rich world where gunshots are instantly identified, the shooters
are photographed, and in war zones, automatically targeted for return
fire. The remaining years of human-led combat are numbered indeed.
Telepresence and the Future of Conflict
Infantry Robots for Urban Warfare and Counterinsurgency Ops,
DefenseReview.com, David Crane, 12.13.2004
[JS] SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconaissance
Detection Systems) are examples of the remote controlled future
of conflict. Built by military contractor Foster-Miller, SWORDS
are 3 foot tall remotely piloted vehicles, with tank tracks, night
vision, and automatic weapons that can be operated by solders in
bunkers a few thousand feet away. The speed and precision of these
systems is becoming amazing. In one recent test a SWORDS bot equipped
with a precision fire system scored 70 out of 70 bulls-eyes on a
nickel-sized target 300 yards away. As with other telepresent warfare
systems, at least two people watching the system's video have to
sign off on any use of force by the bot. Vision systems are one
of the weak links at present. As long as computer vision remains
lower resolution than human eyesight, the opportunity for error
Army will deploy 18 SWORDS units to Iraq in Spring, a historic first
in the nature of global combat. Imagine the day these systems have
human-superior vision, can do nonlethal incapacitation at a distance
(for example, using chemical shield in rubber projectiles) and can
be teleoperated for miles, rather than a few thousand feet. They
will become the first choice for defusing any hostile situation,
military or civil.
bodies (biology, health, neuroscience),
behavior (business, education, foresight, governance,
innovation, pre-digital technology, society), minds
(psychology, spirituality), human systems theory
(ecological psychology, memetics)
and Poor's "Dividend Aristocrats"
(Click on "S&P 500 Dividends" in Index Highlights
Want to put some of your savings in well-run, investor-oriented
companies? 58 companies from S&P500's Large Cap Index have increased
their dividends for 25 consecutive years. Another 27 from S&P's
MidCap400 and SmallCap600 also make this cut. History is often a
good indicator of future performance in this regard. What are current
high end yields available in Large Caps? Companies like Consolidated
Edison (utilities, symbol: ED) with 5.2%, and Altria (consumer staples,
symbol: MO) with 4.8% top the list. This sure beats leaving your
depreciating dollars sitting in that bank account!
Found in Long-Distance Psychotherapy, Psycport.com,
by Iveta Brigis] A number of recent
scientific studies have shown that therapy can be just as, and in
some cases, more effective when the therapist is not in the same
room as the patient. The implications for telemedicine and virtual
reality therapy are impressive.
The more effective
teletherapy becomes, the more the access to mental health care will
increase, and the more the cost for any fixed level of service will
decrease, once a virtuous cycle is established for the first effective
distance psychotherapy programs.
energy, small tech (nanoengineering,
miniaturization), computer "bodies" (automation,
computer hardware, nanotech, robotics), inner systems theory
(acceleration, efficiency, miniaturization, reductionism)
The Tremendous Promise of Synthetic Biology
Reinvented, Wired, Oliver Morton, Jan 2005
biology (SB) may be the most important new innovation in nanotechnology
most people have never heard of. It involves modifying or integrating
well-characterized biological components (i.e. genes, promoters)
into higher order genetic networks using mathematical modeling to
direct the construction towards the desired end product. Circuit
theory is a very important part of the subject, but in this case
it's biological, not technological circuits that are being discovered,
characterized, and manipulated.
and Boston U all have small
SB labs now, but the field remains an obscure and underfunded subject.
This excellent Wired article discusses MIT's egalitarian
approach. Drew Endy, working under computer science
guru Tom Knight, has undergraduate students tinkering
in the bio lab to create new cellular functionality in independent
study projects. Functions like counters, toggles, oscillators, and
other electro-mechanical behaviors are being built in living cells,
and engineers model how the cell produces these features in computer
very forward-looking Gates Foundation has just given a huge boost
to SB in December by awarding $42M to Berkeley and some Bay Area
biotech groups for synthetic
production of antimalarial drugs.
What are some
of SB's long -term potentials? One obvious application is cheaper
synthesis of new drugs, as in the Gates Foundation's initiative.
Another is creating genetically modified bacteria that can efficiently
manufacture methane or other fossil fuels. This latter speculative
idea is championed by Steven Chu, Nobel laureate
and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Yet another
is the possibility of pulling greenhouse C02 out of the atmosphere
and storing it in corals (as calcium carbonate) that are used as
has long had dreams of a "molecular assembler." Synthetic
biology has, in just the last few years, shown how we may turn those
dreams into reality sooner than we think. But synthetic biology's
greatest promise may be in its ability to usher in the first truly
autonomous electronic computing systems, what we might call the
"technocellular substrate," as we discuss in Hyper
Space below. Thanks to Patrick Lincoln
for the tip.
Energies are Looking Good Again, CNET.com,
Michael Kanellos, 7.12.2004
nice piece on advances in alternative energy. The U.S. imported
46% of its oil in 1990, and 57% in 2000. National Geographic
estimates that global peak oil production will occur anywhere from
2016 to 2040. The energy market still dwarfs the computing market,
so even in Silicon Valley venture capital is now flowing into alternative
energy R&D. Thin film solar technologies (Konarka Technologies,
Nanosys) look particularly good, as they will likely drop an order
of magnitude in price in coming years (from $300 to $30 per square
(co-evolution, automation, symbiosis), computer "minds"
(computer software, simulation), cyber
systems theory (holism, information, intelligence, interdependence,
Engines Make Big Strides
Google Expand Searches, Los Angeles Times, Chris Gaither,
1.25.2005 [registration required]
Decides to Become a Bricks-and-Mortar Booster, Los Angeles
Times, Chris Gaither, 1.27.2004
Joins Search Race, Los Angeles Times, Chris Gaither,
[JS] Very exciting things are happening
in search these days. Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and Microsoft have
all launched major initiatives, and the Linguistic
User Interface moves closer every day. Google
Video has been recording thousands of hours of TV programming
of a growing number of TV partners using Google's massively distributed
storage system, archiving the close-captionng text. The system returns
still images of the program associated with that phrase, and tells
you when it will next be on, and perhaps eventually, how to order
it on demand. Not only is this a new way to find and view TV programming,
but such a user-driven interface may one day create niche markets
for educational video of all types, made by small producers. Also
check out Google Scholar,
Google's new free search engine for online academic research, launched
in Dec. Expect more free search tools for special constituencies
(lawyers, doctors, etc.) down the road.
A9.com search engine just introduced
for their Yellow Pages, a tool to drive people into brick-and-mortar
businesses, and to increase business use of Amazon's online stores.
They sent a fleet of GPS and camera equipped cars to ten cities
so far (including Los Angeles and San Francisco) to snap 20 million
street-level photographs. Now you can stroll down virtual streets
using Block View, and post reviews and read recommendations on each
store that you might want to patronize. As you'll see if you enter
a street and city, the pictures don't always directly show you the
business (especially if it is not close to the curb), but this is
obviously just the first generation. In-Store
Pickup is another nice advance. Beginning with Circuit City,
you can pay online then drive to a local participating retailer
and your order will be ready at the front for pickup when you arrive.
This might be a hit with time-pressed shoppers. How long before
we see drive-thru pickup windows?
coolest of all is a button on each yellow page, Click-to-Call
Business. Give your phone number once to A9.com, hit the button,
and the software calls you and the business simultaneously! Read
Rael Dornfest's article
at a Crossroads, Manufacturing Automation, Oct 2004
In a recent insightful cover story on the future of automation,
Manufacturing Automation magazine interviewed five industry
leaders, including Joel Orr and Jim Pinto,
both futurist friends of the ASF.
several of these experts point out, manufacturing automation has
presently reached a plateau, as equipment is increasingly sophisticated,
expensive, and difficult to service, and automation software is
yielding declining returns. This reinforces a situation with fewer
suppliers, more expensive service contracts, and less ability to
upgrade or reconfigure a production line on the fly.
seems like a recapitulation of the mainframe computing industry
in the 1960's, just before it was revitalized by minicomputers in
the 1970's, and then again by personal computers in the 1980's.
experts talk about important advances we can expect in sensors,
wireless, machine to machine communication, MEMS/nano, and other
areas, but it seems to me that the next truly major revolution in
industrial automation will have to be cheaper, smarter, safer, and
more modular, "plug and play" components for the manufacturing
less expensive, smaller, and more rapidly reconfigurable modules,
with ability to interoperate regardless of manufacturer, would massively
grow the current market for manufacturing systems, making automated
production more affordable to small businesses around the planet.
we are still years away from this happening makes it clear how difficult
this transition will be. Fortunately, as Bill
Swanton of AMR Research notes:
trend to more modular manufacturing lines that can be deployed
quickly, similar to what you see in packaging technology today.
These lines will be more standardized across a corporation and
will include built-in capabilities for performance management
and process monitoring. The information capabilities of the automation
will support higher-level software, such as EMI and MES more easily,
and become more like commercial IT equipment following standard
device-management and security protocols."
is encouraging, as it suggests early signs of a coming "mini"
revolution in automated manufacturing. That should pave the way
for a "micro" revolution, truly small scale manufacturing,
perhaps a decade or two later. Who will lead the next modular manufacturing
revolution? Let us know your thoughts
hyperphysics (black holes, multiverse,
string theory, supersymmetry), hyper systems theory
(computational limits, technological singularity hypothesis, developmental
singularity hypothesis, emergence, phase transitions)
Synthetic Biology and the Technocellular
As discussed in Inner Space above, synthetic biology
looks very promising as a powerful platform for molecular manufacturing,
or advanced nanotechnology. Yet perhaps the most important and underappreciated
benefit of this new field may be its ability to help us develop
a whole new kind of evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) computation,
one capable of ushering in the first "artificial life"
worthy of the term, the first computer systems capable of autonomously
directing their own self-improvement on a continuing basis.
At the very
least, synthetic biology's successes will lead to dramatic improvement
in our molecular and cellular computational biology. Specifically,
this means more predictive computer simulations of low-level biological
systems, and better medicine and pharmaceuticals. But there are
even bigger rewards possible. The better we understand the way cells
and gene networks work as "digitally controlled analog"
devices, the sooner we'll be able to build deeply biologically-inspired
computers that can both evolve and develop over time. These will
be computers capable of healing themselves and of perennially increasing
their own adaptive complexity in the proper environments.
the first truly autonomous biology-inspired systems and evolutionary
developmental environments are implemented in fast silicon rather
than slow wetware, what I call the "technocellular substrate"
will emerge. Agents in computer networks will have the achieved
the level of autonomy and sophistication of living cells, and an
ability to recapitulate the kind of evolutionary development that
created us. Yet they will be able to do this on a multimillionfold
faster timescale in the new, more STEM-efficient electronic simulation
environment. What took millions of years for genetic evolutionary
development may take only years, or less, for "technetic"
systems. If it took us 500 million years to go from complex cells
to talking hominids, it may take only fifty years, or less, to go
from complex autonomous technocells to human-surpassing AI and the
technological singularity. How soon before the first technocells
emerge? Inquiring minds want to know!
For more on
the promise and current shortcomings of artificial life, see any
of the publications edited by Mark Bedau, Editor-in-Chief
of the MIT Press journal Artificial
Life. In particular, Collective
Intelligence of the Artificial Life Commmunity, on its own Successes,
Failures, and Future, Spring 2003, is a recent helpful overview
of the field.
all deserve a little fun every day. Send your entries for the next
Man (Vogue, 1939)
"Man of the next century will revolt against shaving
and wear a beautiful beard ... his hat will be an antenna ... his
socks - disposable. His suit minus tie, collar, buttons."
[Future Fashion by Gilbert Rohde (1894-1944), designer.
Bruehl photograph for Vogue, February 1939.]
Toffler predicted thirty years ago that people would be
wearing lots of recyclable paper unisuits by now. These do exist
for industrial use, but they haven't yet made it to Vogue.
If anything, most of our clothing has trended in Future Man's direction,
becoming more computerized, flashier, and more personally unique.
Thanks to Marlon Rojas.
have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked
with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing
is a fad that won't last out the year." -- The editor in charge
of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
Collection for a few more humorously bad tech forecasts.
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)accelerating.org. Accepted work will appear, fully credited,
in future issues.