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Strategic Insights in Accelerating Technological Change

8 October, 2004

"Early Bird" discount for AC2004 extended to October 12th!

Due to the number of requests for an extension to the early bird deadline, we've pushed back the cut-off date to Tuesday, October 12th. Until that time, conference registration is $350 regular and $150 for students. Don't forget to take advantage of these extremely low rates before they fly away!

AC2004 Virtual Space Debate Spotlight:
Jack Emmert vs. Steve Salyer (Cory Ondrejka Moderating)

“Real Money in Virtual Economies: The Future of User-Created Content”



Jack Emmert
is lead designer of City of Heroes, a new and wildly successful massively multi-player online game (200,000 paying subscribers and growing), and Creative Director of Cryptic Studios.



Steve Salyer is President of Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE), the world’s largest secondary market for goods and currencies from massively multi-player games and virtual worlds.


Steve and Jack will make legal, dollar, behavioral, and design forecasts for the virtual property markets within massively multi-player games, debating the practice from seller and designer viewpoints, and business vs. gaming intentions, respectively. This debate will clue attendees in to a gigantic emerging market and fascinating culture that most of us haven’t yet considered. The dialog should produce a few new business plans and also be a whole lot of fun. Listen to Bill Gurley's massively multi-player market talk from O'Reilly's Web 2.0 Conference for a strong introduction.

Some background story:

In late 2001, then-CSU Fullerton economist Edward Castronova published a landmark paper entitled “Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market Society on the Cyberian Frontier” describing how markets for virtual items within the massively multi-user virtual world of EverQuest were translating into real dollars. An excerpt from the abstract reads:

The nominal hourly wage [for a player in “Norrath”, the online world of EverQuest] is about USD 3.42 per hour, and the labors of the people produce a GNP per capita somewhere between that of Russia and Bulgaria. A unit of Norrath's currency is traded on exchange markets at USD 0.0107, higher than the Yen and the Lira… Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new world is its location. Norrath is a virtual world that exists entirely on 40 computers in San Diego. Unlike many internet ventures, virtual worlds are making money – with annual revenues expected to top USD 1.5 billion by 2004 – and if network effects are as powerful here as they have been with other internet innovations, virtual worlds may soon become the primary venue for all online activity.

Castronova’s paper highlighted the emerging real world significance of massively multi-player online worlds and became the most downloaded paper on the Social Science Research Network. Since then, massively multi-user virtual worlds have only gotten more popular, more complex, and more connected to the real world through various social, creative, and economic systems (including secondary market sellers like IGE and Gaming Open Market). Some people are literally making a living trading in virtual goods and currencies. There is now an annual conference at the New York Law School dedicated to sorting out the legal implications of this relationship (State of Play), and Castronova has been honored with a tenured professorship at Indiana University where he is being encouraged to focus more exclusively on virtual worlds studies.


Debate moderator Cory Ondrejka is VP of Product development at Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life—a unique massively multi-user online world built and owned by its users. Cory will also deliver a keynote presentation in the Virtual Space theme entitled, "Living the Dream: Business, Community and Innovation at the Dawn of Digital Worlds."


Some read ahead articles, audio and video:

(Highly recommended new listen) Bill Gurly on MMOG – mp3 from the O'Reilly's Web 2.0 Conference, October 7th
(Highly recommended reading) When Play Money Becomes Real article, Wired News
An Introduction to Virtual Item Tradingby Edward Castronova
Multiplayer Gaming’s Quiet Revolution – video (Second Life), Tech TV
Boring Game? Outsource It – article, Wired News
The Future of City of Heroes: Cryptic Studios Interview – from Games Domain
Living on the Edge: Digital Worlds Which Embrace the Real World – essay, by Cory Ondrejka
The Cryptic Prophecies of Jeff Goldblum Applied to Massively Multiplayer Video Games...In a Good Way, of Course – blog entry, Future Salon
Journalist Earns Significant Salary Trading Virtual Goods – post and thread, Terra Nova blog
Terra Nova blog (AC2004 Media Sponsor)

New Speaker: Christine Peterson, Championing Nanotech Innovation

Nanotech pioneer Christine Peterson, Vice President and Founder of Foresight Institute, will give a talk AC2004 called "Championing NanotechInnovation: Lessons Learned".

Christine Peterson writes, lectures, and briefs the media on coming powerful technologies, especially nanotechnology. She is Founder and Vice President of Foresight Institute, the leading nanotech public interest group. Foresight educates the public, technical community, and policymakers on nanotechnology and its long-term effects.

She directs the Foresight Conferences on Molecular Nanotechnology, organizes the Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes, and chairs the Foresight Vision Weekends. Later this month, she will chair the 1st Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology: Research, Applications, and Policy.

With Eric Drexler and Gayle Pergamit, she wrote Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution (Morrow, 1991, full text online), which sketches nanotechnology's potential environmental and medical benefits as well as possible abuses. An interest in group process led to coauthoring Leaping the Abyss: Putting Group Genius to Work (knOwhere Press, 1997, full text online) with Gayle Pergamit.

Access to the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab at AC2004

Jeremy Bailenson, head of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford, will be speaking on his research and presenting new VR technologies at Accelerating Change 2004. There will be two tours of his lab (Thursday, November 4th, 6-8 PM and Sunday the 7th, 6-8pm) where visitors are encouraged to demo lab projects such as this and these. Jeremy is a great mind in the field of virtual reality and mediated social interaction, and this is a rare opportunity to experience the state-of-the-art in those technologies while conversing directly with one of the researchers behind them.


AC2004 Filling Up: Sign Up Soon!

Accelerating Change is the premiere conference broadly exploring the opportunities and challenges of accelerating technological change. Our conference exists to network the world's most broad minded, transdisciplinary, systems-oriented, future-aware, practical and passionate speakers and participants, and to collectively consider the staggering changes occuring annually on our increasingly intelligent planet. Every year the connections you make here will be among the most important, productive, and informative in your life.

In today's fast-paced technological environment, understanding and guiding accelerating change involves a new way of thinking, learning to see the most powerful and broadly applicable innovations, processes, trends, and physical efficiencies, and discovering where, when, and how to harness those to create value in the modern world.

AC2004 brings you forty world-class speakers over two and a half days, six keynotes, three debates, a Virtual Worlds and Tech demo, and a DVD conference record. Check out our PDF brochure. Rates are $350 for Early Bird, and $150 for Student registrants. We have 350 spaces at the event (300 for registrants, 50 for speakers and volunteers). Register while spaces are still available!


Before the conference, Tech Tidbits features at least three thought-provoking items in each issue, arranged in our three AC2004 themes. Find news we should know about? Tell us at mail(at)accelerating.org

PHYSICAL SPACE
Controlling Hurricanes, Ross Hoffman, Scientific American, October 2004 (6 pages)
[Commentary by John Smart]. The more transparent every aspect of the modern world becomes, the more conscious we are of the immense damage caused by natural disasters. Hurricane Ivan, for example, recently created $11 billion in property damage, and we can expect many more such storms in coming years. After 25 years of relative quiet from 1970-1995, NOAA researchers believe we may be in for a decades long period of hurricane hyperactivity. So far this year eleven named storms have emerged in the Atlantic, and seven of these have caused damge in the U.S.

This month's SciAm discusses the research of Ross Hoffman's simulation group, and his proposal that we might tame hurricanes just a few decades hence by space based solar powered satellites (SPSs). In 1968, Peter Glaser proposed using solar powered satellites to beam down microwaves for power on earth. He proposed tuning the microwaves to minimize climate interference. For hurricane control, by contrast, the microwaves would be tuned to be preferentially absorbed by atmospheric water vapor, much like the waves in your microwave oven. Hurricanes have low pressure centers which should be disruptable by countervailing atmospheric heating, and are also sensitively steered by high pressure fronts on any side. It might turn out to be easier to steer them away from land than to dissipate them. The prospects for global humanitarian benefit here are tremendous: with a little international cooperation we can (and likely eventually will!) build a hurricane control system that would gently keep all our named storms away from landfall. Once built, we would probably be able to use the same system to take the edge off of our worst blizzards, monsoons, possibly even tornados.

Certainly the political issues are difficult, and caution will be needed to ensure the system is minimally disruptive to global climate, but what could be a better role for NASA than a partnership with NOAA and global weather monitoring agencies to get a test system up and running over this next decade? This would be a hugely practical step beyond the current NASA mission.

It's also possible that expensive microwave generating satellites wouldn't be necessary. Simply accurately reflecting light from space, if adequately focused, might do the same thing, with enough inexpensive reflectors.

The Russians pioneered space mirror research back in 1993 and again in a failed attempt in 1999 (the image to the left is what their 1999 mirror would have looked like if it hadn't failed to deploy once in orbit). This 25 meter mirror was expected to create a five to eight kilometer wide circle of light on the ground. A sufficent array of these might raise local air temperature by a few degrees wherever they were aimed, enough to either steer or dissipate a storm. The devices themselves might be astonishingly simple: a large aluminized mylar sheet with a gyroscope at its center might make a functional repositionable mirror. Mylar, if you recall, is an unusually strong polyester film invented by DuPont back in 1952. Here it is (right) hoisting a car back in that optimistic era. We are still coming up with new uses for our amazing 20th century materials every year.

I'll be giving a talk on this and other fascinating technology proposals at the Space Frontier Conference 2004 in Long Beach this October 8-10. Now that the X prize has been won (by Burt Rutan's elegant SpaceShipOne), we need to think of bold new visions for the human value of pioneering space. I believe it is becoming clear that the more we improve our understanding of "inner space" (materials science, ever shrinking computation, simulation, energy) the sooner we improve our capacities in "outer space." The converse is also true: the better our outer space manipulation capacities become, our greatest payoff is always enriched inner lives for all humanity (dramatically better living conditions, more opportunities for personal growth, innovation, and creativity, better universal and self-understanding). Special thanks to Iveta Brigis for the scan hit.

Accelerating universe will limit technology, Belle Dumé, PhysicsWeb, 7 May 2004 (1 page)
[Article contributed by Tech Tidbits subscriber Wayne Radinsky.] Quoted from the introduction to the article: The acceleration of the expansion of the universe places limits on future developments in technology according to two US cosmologists. Lawrence Krauss and Glenn Starkman of Case Western Reserve University have shown that the acceleration could put a fundamental limit on the total amout of information that can be stored and processed in the future (arXiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0404510). They also calculate that Moore’s Law will remain valid for no more than 600 years -- although workers in the semiconductor industry are more pessimistic and think that the famous law will break down in the next decade or two.

Spot-On Solution for Car Thefts, Stephen Leahy, Wired.com, 10 August 2004 (2 pages)
[Article contributed by Tech Tidbits subscriber Peter Voss.] Quoted from the article: Australia has implemented a tiny solution to reduce its big car-theft problem: plastering thousands of plastic microdots on late-model vehicles.

As small as grains of sand, up to 10,000 DataDots are laser-etched with vehicle identification numbers and spray-glued on the engine and most other parts, making it very difficult to "re-birth" cars or sell cannibalized parts. The dots glow under a black light for easy spotting and can be read with a 30-power magnifying glass.


VIRTUAL SPACE

John Kerry, action hero, Tom Loftus, MSNBC, 17 September 2004 (1 page)
[Commentary by Jerry Paffendorf.] Kuma Reality Games, pioneers of “news gaming," have a new release in the works that recreates then-25-year-old presidential candidate John Kerry's 1969 journey down the Mekong Delta in a Swift Boat on the day he earned his Silver Star. According to the Kuma site the download will include "[a] broadband video news show, real-world intel, satellite images and the background you need to understand a key issue in this year's presidential election."

Here's an excerpt from the article quoting Kuma's CEO, Keith Halper (an AC2004 speaker) :

"The level of rancor has been so high and what is lost is the details," said Halper referring to the attacks on Kerry's Vietnam service by the partisan group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. "People want to know, what did Kerry do? What did swift boats do in Vietnam? What types of missions did swift boats go on?"

Games researcher Jesper Juul posted this open question on the persuasive nature of games on his blog, The Ludologist:

“I wonder if games are persuasive when they represent historical events. After all, the game is likely to have several possible outcomes, and the outcome you want for the John Kerry game probably depends on what outcome would fit your pre-existing convictions?”

Keith Halper will be speaking at AC2004 on his vision for expanding Kuma-style "interactive reporting."

Addicted Gamers, Losing Their Way (free registration required) Chris Richards, Washington Post, 5 October 2004 (3 pages) [Commentary by Alvis Brigis.] Interacting with the virtual frontier has its advantages and disadvantages. As a new dimension of possibilities opens up in virtual spaces, the level of human attachment to these environments is growing. Therefore, just as people can become addicted to all sorts of behavior in physical spaces, they are now becoming addicted to patterns of behavior in virtual worlds. The article I've selected this week talks about the explosion in gaming addiction and offers some basic advice on what to do about it. Interestingly, 12-step programs are one solution that seems to be working for some of these dependent gamers.

Speaker Speak, Clark Aldrich, AC2004 Virtual Space Change Leader
"We have thought about interfaces as different ways of controlling real or computer environments. We are just now seeing the results of designing sophisticated interfaces to optimize the learning and transfer of skills, especially soft skills such as leadership. By getting it right, students can practice subtle balance and timing, not just recite high level models or linear processes. Every educational experience, from schools to corporation to the military, will be impacted by this new super-content, and probably sooner than we think."


INTERFACE

Speaker Speak, Richard Marks, AC2004 Interface Keynote
"Input technology will make similar strides in the coming years that display technology (computer graphics) has made in the last few years."

"Now is an extremely exciting time in the game industry. The compute power that we can bring to bear at a reasonable cost will enable some amazing new user experiences in the next few years."


Film Review of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, by Jeff Thompson
[Commentary by Jeff Thompson.] Last week's Tech Tidbits linked an article by James Pinkerton comparing two current movies, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, set in the 1930's, and Ghost in the Shell 2, set in the 2030's. Sky Captain is not really an attempt to visualize the future, but rather to nostalgically present how people viewed the future in the 1930's. There are airplanes that turn into submarines, wrist radios and giant mechanical robots. The movie does reveal one fascinating thing: for all their imagination, no one in the 1930's imagined the most important development which the future would bring only a decade later: the electronic computer. At the core of robots in the movie are gears, not digital processors. Power is about having bigger metal feet that can crush cars, not about being able to manipulate information faster. (It wasn't until 1937 that Alan Turing showed that a general purpose computer, like the one you're reading this article on, was mathematically possible.)

Contrast this with Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which gets it. There are many reviews, like this one which will confirm that the mix of hand-drawn animation and 3D computer graphics is gorgeous. At the end of the first Ghost in the Shell movie, the main character's police partner is basically uploaded, becoming pure information on the world's data networks. In the second movie, he wanders through the sensory overloaded urban landscape, vaguely missing his partner and trying to solve a case. He mostly does this by interviewing one person after another who questions what it means to feel like an individual when the world has so clearly been shown to be a just sea of information created by ubiquitous computing and instant communications which link everything. Among the philosophizing and eye-popping scenery, there is indeed a plot involving the case (remember the movie title) which is a literary device to ask the question: In a world where information devices can turn the whims of anyone, even a little girl, into a reality that reaches out across the world, who can truly be innocent? Both the main character and his uploaded partner (and hopefully the audience if they were paying attention) are left wondering how to proceed when physical space has been turned into mind space, and like it or not your fate can be determined by the naive - but not innocent - impulses of a random child. Maybe even the ever-resourceful Sky Captain would realize that the threat in the future is not an army of giant robots, but the precipice of confusion and cognitive dissonance.


Call for Submissions
ISAC is seeking submissions for its Accelerating Times (AT) web-based publication. AT is a "free and priceless" newsletter covering scientific, technological, business, and humanist dialogs in accelerating change. Anyone may submit reader feedback, scan hits, article links, original papers, questions, and even cartoons (for you illustrators out there) to mail(at)accelerating.org. Contributers will be notified of acceptance status in a timely fashion, and accepted work will appear, fully credited, in future issues of Accelerating Times. Visit http://singularitywatch.com/news.html for more details.

ISAC

Early Bird Discount Extended!

AC2004 Virtual Space Debate Spotlight

New Speaker: Christine Peterson

Access to Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab at AC2004

AC2004 Filling Up: Sign Up Soon!

NEWS

Controlling Hurricanes

Accelerating universe will limit technology

Spot-On Solution for Car Thefts

John Kerry, action hero

Addicted Gamers, Losing Their Way

Speaker Speak, Clark Aldrich

Speaker Speak, Richard Marks

Film Review of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

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Washington, D.C.
Oct 18-19, 2004

COMING EVENTS

World Technology Summit and Awards, October 7-8 (San Francisco, CA). Celebrating the most innovative people and organizations in the science and technology world.

Serious Games Summit, Oct 18-19 (Washington, D.C.). The leading conference for training, policy exploration, analytics, visualization, education, health and therapy simulations.

Pop!Tech, October 21-23 (Camden, ME). The social impact of technology and the shape of things to come.

RoboNexus, October 21-23
(Santa Clara, CA). The nation's largest business, development, education, and consumer event for emerging robotics technologies.

Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology, Oct 22-24 (Washington, DC). Analyzing and championing the emerging field of molecular manufacturing (MNT).

International Congress of Nanotechnology, Nov 7-11 (San Francisco, CA). Broad overview of the state of nano today. Includes Expo.

 

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